MP Henry Bellingham would like to see a village school given time to recover from the falling pupil numbers which are forcing its closure.

The North West Norfolk MP believes Great Bircham’s King George VI School needs six months to a year to get the numbers back to where they should be.

He said the school needs to encourage parents both, inside and outside the catchment area, to send their children to Great Bircham rather than elsewhere.

The school currently has 13 pupils and in September, an Ofsted inspection found it “required improvement”.

Mr Bellingham said parents needed to join forces with the school governors and local councillors to mount a strong campaign to fight the decision.

“I am happy to back them in any way I can,” said the MP.

“The school should be given time to recover, maybe six months to a year, to build numbers up. There are a significant number of mums taking their children elsewhere, which you cannot stop, and it is right parents should have a choice, but why are they not going to Bircham?” he asked.

“The school should be telling these mums what it has got in place to make improvements and turn the school around.

“I would like to see the school given time to pull round because once a school is closed, it is closed forever.”

Parents received letters on Friday saying the school is to close and from Easter, pupils and staff will transfer to nearby Docking primary.

One parent claimed the letter arrived on the same day that inspectors had praised the school for its hard work.

Angry mum Claire Wright said new homes were planned for Great Bircham and future families will not have a village school if it closes.

Jacquie Wiltshire was among those taking part in a fundraising bingo at the school on Saturday and said the county council must have known it was  closing.

Bob Hutchinson,  chairman of the local parish council, said the decision was “short-sighted”.

He has written to Mr Bellingham (see letters page 6)

Norfolk County Council has said: “We have been working with the governors to plan for the school’s short-term future.

“The number of children at the school has been falling for some time and there are only 13 pupils. In addition, there have been some challenges in relation to the leadership arrangements at the school.

“We believe that moving the children and staff to Docking Primary School would be the best way to ensure that the children continue to receive a good education after the school holidays.

“We will put in place free transport and help with the transitional arrangements to support both schools.

“At this stage, this does not mean that the school will close permanently. However, its size, and the difficulty this can cause in recruiting staff, means that securing the future viability of the school will be extremely difficult.

“The county council, governors and diocese will be exploring the future of primary education in the area in the coming months to look at what is best for local children.

“Any proposals will include full consultation with parents and the wider public.”