Final bell at island school after 100 years

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The Independent Online

For more than 100 years the children of Caldy, a mile off the south-west coast of Wales, have received their first formal education in the island's tiny school. But today, when term ends and the school shuts for the summer break, it will be closing for good. Come September, there will be only two pupils of primary school age.

For more than 100 years the children of Caldy, a mile off the south-west coast of Wales, have received their first formal education in the island's tiny school. But today, when term ends and the school shuts for the summer break, it will be closing for good. Come September, there will be only two pupils of primary school age.

"It is awful but we have known that this was coming for some time," said the headteacher, Frances Allen, who moved to the island seven years ago to take up the job and does not think the school will ever reopen.

"It is the end of an era but you have to move on. What is sad is that without a school the island is unlikely to attract families with children. Even if a family came here I think it is unlikely they would reopen a school, but might instead just a have a situation where a parent would help the child using the internet and video-conferencing," she said.

Caldy Island, a half-hour boat ride from Tenby, has a permanent adult population of around 40 islanders, along with a dozen or so Cistercian monks. In the summer the numbers swell dramatically with tourists and visitors who come to visit the monastery and buy the perfume produced there.

Last year, there were 10 pupils at the school, this year there were four and two of them - including one of Mrs Allen's own two children - have reached the age at which they need to travel to secondary school on the Pembrokeshire mainland. Mrs Allen said: "We had the situation where they would be just two pupils at the school. Neither ourselves or the parents of the other boy thought that was a good idea. It has been hard enough with four pupils.

"There has been a school on Caldy for more than 100 years and it has many memories for people who were educated here. There will be a few tears shed when the bell goes for the last time on Friday."

Over the past century a school has opened and closed as numbers of pupils dwindled or rose. The current building, a wooden summer house converted into a one-room school, has been in use for the last 18 years. The founder of this last phase of the school, Father Stephen, an island monk, said: "It has been a wonderful school over the years and has given the island's children a good grounding.

"Most of the children have gone on to university and many are still in touch with the island and come back to visit." He said the closure was sad, but the need was no longer there.

Last weekend, the school held a party for former pupils, and during the last term the children have been researching the island's history for a special project. Today, they will spend the day at a adventure theme park near Haverfordwest.

Mrs Allen said: "I thoughtwe would finish doing something different."

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