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Car rally to save West End Primary School from closure held

Protesters gather at West End Primary School as part of a rally to urge the Government to keep the school open (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Campaigners against the closure of a primary school said they would fight to the end to prevent the historic institution as they staged a car rally on the weekend.

About 100 people gathered at the field at West End Primary School in Sandys, many wearing the school’s blue and yellow colours, in a protest against a plan to shut the school as part of a plan to change the education system.

Ellen-Kate Horton, a veteran teacher who is facing disciplinary action from the Progressive Labour Party over her opposition to the school closure, said West End Primary was the heart of the black community in Somerset.

She added: “We are the only school in Somerset where blacks could attend.

“It was build for us during a racist regime and we were not allowed into Somerset Primary School – called Sandys Primary school at the time.

“Without West End, there would be no ‘us’.”

Ms Horton said the school had produced a string of black leaders.

She added: “To destroy our legacy is criminal. It’s nothing less than criminal in my opinion.

“The fact that it’s being done by a Government that this side of the island has so heavily supported is more than disappointing.”

Ms Horton said it was “madness” to give preference to Somerset Primary because it was larger, as the size of the schools was determined in part by their racial history.

She added: “In a day when the Black Lives Matter situation is going on, when Barbados took down a statue of Lord Nelson, in a day when the confederate flag is being taken down in the US, we shouldn’t be rewarding that.”

Ms Horton added that she had written to several MPs, including Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, who said he would relay her message to the committee responsible.

Nine schools across the island would be shut under the Government plan, including the Gilbert Institute, Northlands Primary, West End Primary, Heron Bay Primary, Port Royal Primary, St David’s Primary and St George’s Prep.

Prospect Primary would be converted to a special needs school and Elliot Primary in Devonshire would be converted to an alternative education facility.

Craig Simmons, an economist and West End Primary former pupil, agreed the history of West End Primary should be preserved.

He said: “We recognise that populations are shrinking, but why we are here today is because we want to preserve history, more than 150 years of history.

“I don’t think it will cost money to preserve history, but we can work it out. We live in a democracy – thank God for that.”

Mr Simmons said his family had attended the school for generations, including his children and his grandchildren and his father.

He added: “It is in my DNA. West End School gave me great foundations in language, mathematics and virtue, so I owe a great debt to the school and its teachers.”

Clyde Best, a trailblazing star footballer with Britain’s West Ham United, said the school was a cherished part of Somerset.

Mr Best added: “If they closed every old building in England, there would be nothing left.

“We have had some stellar people come through this school that have done some tremendous things in life – teachers, doctors, lawyers, footballers and cricketers.

“It would be great if we could find a way to keep it open, even if it means calling up all of the alumni and raising money to do what we need to do.”

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Published June 24, 2021 at 7:37 am (Updated June 24, 2021 at 7:37 am)

Car rally to save West End Primary School from closure held

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