Dale Farm: Fears raised over school after eviction

Dale Farm
Image caption Traveller families began to set up pitches illegally on greenbelt land at Dale Farm in 2001

A councillor has said he fears for the future of an Essex school when some of its pupils are evicted from a nearby illegal travellers' site.

Crays Hill Primary is attended by 110 children, 107 of whom live at Dale Farm, near Wickford.

An operation to evict about 400 people - including an estimated 25 pupils - is due to begin on 19 September.

Parish councillor David McPherson-Davies said he believed this would have a "significant" impact on the school.

The school was rated good in its most recent Ofsted report in 2009, but has one of the worst attendance rates in the UK.

A Department for Education report in December 2010 showed 53% of its pupils were persistently absent.

'Restore confidence'

Mr McPherson-Davies, a former chairman of the Ramsden Crays Parish Council, believed it would take some time before children from the settled community started to return to the school.

"The illegal site that's due for eviction is almost full up and therefore one would imagine it would have a significant effect on the attendance and the school's role for the future.

"If it is going to continue as a school it will take in my opinion a very long time to restore the local confidence in the school.

Image caption The travellers' message in the face of eviction is clearly visible at the Dale Farm site

"One of the problems is that it effectively is like a private school for travellers and therefore the local community have no real input or communication with the school."

In a statement, Essex County Council said: "We do not yet know if the site clearance will have any impact on the attendance at the local primary school.

"Therefore it is too early to comment on plans for the school after the eviction."

It added the school would remain open throughout the eviction process.

Travellers own the Dale Farm site but some plots have been built on without planning permission.

Basildon Council is due to evict those on illegal pitches after a 10-year legal battle.

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