28 February 2023
Fred Nicholson School

How we take care of, and educate, some of our most vulnerable people is a measure of us as a society. EVERYONE has the right to a good education.

That’s why, having previously helped the campaign to move Chapel Road School in Attleborough to its new state-of-the-art home at Chapel Green in nearby Old Buckenham (read more here) and called for greater SEN funding for rural schools, I have also been working with Fred Nicholson School in Dereham over the past few years to try and help them secure a long-term solution to their future. 

When I visited the school back in 2019, I was struck by the tremendous spirit of the teachers and pupils, and the love that the wider community has for the school. However, the buildings were visibly falling into disrepair around them and short-term repairs were no longer sustainable. (Learn more here).

While Norfolk County Council have worked closely with Jane Hayman and her dedicated team of staff at Fred Nichs to provide all the support that they can, it has long been clear that a proper long term solution is needed. I have therefore helped convene meetings between Fred Nichs and NCC (including with the leader of the council, Andrew Proctor – who has been a big support) in order to bring about the necessary conversations regarding what can be done to ensure the school has the fit-for-purpose facilities it needs.

NCC takes SEND provision incredibly seriously indeed and, as part of their overall strategy to expand and strengthen the support they provide, have actively participated in discussions with the school to explore whether they should relocate to a new building on the existing site or to an alternative one nearby.

I am delighted to hear the news therefore that NCC’s Cabinet will be meeting on Monday to discuss giving the greenlight to the purchase of some land near Swaffham – which it is hoped could be the location of Fred Nichs’ new home. (My understanding is that, should the land indeed be purchased, a planning application could be made as early as the spring).

As part of my ongoing efforts to support the Fred Nichs community, I have today written to Andrew Proctor to formally reiterate my support of the school and place on record my hope that the NCC Cabinet will sanction the purchase of this key piece of land. By doing so, NCC would not only allow Fred Nichs to move on to the next stage of securing the home they need and deserve, they would also send the clearest possible signal to the SEND community that they are committed to doing all they can to ensure Norfolk has the support it needs.

I will be following Monday’s meeting closely and will continue to do all I can to support Fred Nichs, as well as the wider SEND community.

To learn more about my work on SEND, please visit my website here

To learn more about my work with Fred Nichs, please visit my website here and here