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West Suffolk: End of an era as three schools close for good

PUBLISHED: 13:25 23 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:25 23 July 2014

Balloons released at Beyton Middle School to mark its closure.

Balloons released at Beyton Middle School to mark its closure.

The end of the summer term also marks the end of an era for three middle schools in the Thurston area.

Ixworth Middle School closed its doors to pupils for the last ever time on Friday, with Beyton Middle doing the same yesterday and Blackbourne Middle later today.

The three schools are closing as part of the county-wide move to a two-tier structure of education.

The middles have held a host of activities and events to mark the end of an era, and, while it has been emotional, they also feel they are “going out on a high”.

Yesterday at Beyton Middle hundreds of balloons were released into the air in a “fitting” farewell to their much-loved school.

Headteacher Anne Gardner said: “The school has had a 42-year history as a middle school. We are really proud of how the school has served the community over the years, of all our achievements and traditions, the whole ethos and culture of the school, and we felt that the balloon release was a really fitting tribute to the school and a fitting way to close.”

She said some tears had been shed among students and staff, adding the closure was particularly emotional for those members of the team who do not have jobs to go to.

She said: “I have been really proud of the staff; of their commitment, strength and resilience to put the children first despite everything that’s going on around us.”

Mrs Gardner, who is a great advocate of middle school education, said the school was closing on a high with probably its best set of SAT results ever.

A production of its version of the Wizard of Oz was one of the ways Ixworth Middle - which opened in 1957 - marked its closure.

Headteacher Glenice Francis said some of her staff had worked at the school for more than 30 years.

“I think we are all going to miss the children all very much,” she said. “I think they are an amazing group of children who continue to give both in terms of their hard work and enthusiasm and dedication to the school. Right to the end the children have continued to give, and the staff.”

At Blackbourne Middle in Stanton there was a final farewell celebration on Saturday on the school field.

Headteacher Phil Vigrass described it as an “amazing day,” adding how 50 people came along who were in the first intake of the school back in 1975.

He said a common thread among people’s comments about the school was that it was like “extended family”.

He said the closure was a “wrench” for staff and those who attended so many years ago, but the school was also “going out on a high”.

The school has recorded a song called ‘We Remember Blackbourne Forever’ which is available to listen to on YouTube.

Mr Vigrass will be taking retirement, but he said he will also be spending two days a week at Hardwick Middle School in Bury St Edmunds - which is planned to close - until Christmas at least.

Mrs Gardner and Mrs Francis will both be taking a break to consider their options. A number of staff at all three schools are still looking for work.

Thurston Community College’s sixth form centre is due to move to the former Beyton Middle site in September and Ixworth Free School will open its doors this September at the former Ixworth Middle site.

Suffolk County Council panel

Suffolk County Council began its review of school organisation in Suffolk in 2006 and the following year - after consultation - it adopted the preferred model of primary and secondary schools.

In 2011 the county council, working with the Thurston Partnership of schools, produced a consultation booklet on the restructure in the Thurson area.

The booklet said while many young people do very well at school, others do not do as well as they should, particularly when measured at the age of 11 and 16.

“We have carried out extensive research into children’s progress in Suffolk. Our findings show that where children change school at age nine and then again at 13, their progress is not as good as it is when there is the single change of school at age 11,” it said.

Suffolk County Council rubber-stamped the change to two-tier education in the Thurston area in 2012.

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