£726k spent on middle school closures
EDUCATION chiefs came under fire today after it emerged moves to close Suffolk's 40 middle schools have already cost the taxpayer £726,000.Critics claim the money is being wasted on an unwanted schools shake-up - and have questioned whether it will even go ahead after a review of council boundaries in Suffolk.
EDUCATION chiefs came under fire today after it emerged moves to close Suffolk's 40 middle schools have already cost the taxpayer £726,000.
Critics claim the money is being wasted on an unwanted schools shake-up - and have questioned whether it will even go ahead after a review of council boundaries in Suffolk.
But those spearheading the Schools Organisation Review, which would see a two-tier education system imposed county-wide and all middle schools axed, have argued the expense is justified.
The figure has been revealed after a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk County Council. The money has been spent on publicity materials, reports and meetings.
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Steve Cowper, spokesman for campaign group Parents Against Change, said: “They just seem to have their heads stuck in the sand over this. This is a massive amount of money and what will we get at the end of it?”
He also criticised the council for not halting the entire process while the Boundary Committee for England carried out its review into the future local government structure in Suffolk.
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One option likely to be considered is the abolition of Suffolk County Council and the formation of separate east and west Suffolk unitary authorities.
However, the county council has defended the spending, stating it was the biggest project undertaken in Suffolk's education for 30 years and so had “to be done properly”.
Agreed by cabinet earlier this year, the review is now in its second phase in which the future of individual middle schools have come under the spotlight. Education chiefs believe pupil attainment will improve in a two-tier system.
James Maddison, of the county council's planning and strategic commissioning unit, said he expected the review's eventual cost of £23 million would be recouped by savings brought about by implementing the recommendations.
A council spokesman defended the amount spent so far, saying: “This is the biggest undertaking in terms of improving the county's education system for over 30 years. It has to be done properly.”
In terms of the future local government structures, he said it would not stand in the way of the schools review because nothing had currently been decided.
“As I understand it the Boundary Committee will come in and local at Suffolk's political organisation and come to its own conclusions and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. That is all we have at the current time, everything else is just speculation.”