Call for schools shake-up to be scrapped

A LAST ditch appeal to save middle schools in Bury St Edmunds and Mid Suffolk is to be made tomorrow as the deepening crisis in public spending threatens to put the plans on hold for up to 10 years.

Graham Dines

A LAST ditch appeal to save middle schools in Bury St Edmunds and Mid Suffolk is to be made tomorrow as the deepening crisis in public spending threatens to put the plans on hold for up to 10 years.

The schools were expected to close in 2013, to be replaced by a primary and secondary system, but Suffolk County Council cannot get any guarantee from the government that it will still fund the third phase of the reorganisation.

Although middle schools will still be axed in Lowestoft, Haverhill, Beccles, Bungay, Leiston, Saxmundham, Halesworth, Newmarket, Great Cornard and Sudbury, it could be 10 years before there's enough money to go-ahead with Stowmarket, Needham Market, Bury St Edmunds, Bacton, Stanton, Blackbourn and Thurston.

Last week, education portfolio holder Graham Newman pulled the plug on public consultation on the third phase, saying it would be unfair to talk to parents about changes which might not happen for a decade.

Tomorrow's meeting of the county council will debate a motion presented by three Bury members who were elected for the first time in June on the back of public opposition to the middle school changes in the town.

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Mark Ereira, from the Green Party, said: “The whole project is unravelling because of financial uncertainty. If there's no money to proceed with the change in Bury and Mid Suffolk, we should abandon it.

“Morale among teachers is low, while parents do not want to see excellent local schools being replaced. The 2013 implementation date is not achievable but instead of abandoning the project, all the council is going to do is put it on hold. That leaves staff and parents in a state of limbo.”

Trevor Beckwith, who won standing as an independent, said: “My opposition comes from the proposal to operate middle schools in Bury on split sites. That is bad educational practice.

“We now have the opportunity to ensure our excellent middle schools in the town are kept.”

Mr Newman said last night that the county council “could not abandon” its middle schools policy because of the urgent need to drive up educational standards and achievement in Suffolk, which was lagging behind other areas.

“It's been proved that children who attend middle schools achieve worse exam results than those in the two-tier system.” Mr Newman said that most education authorities had replaced middle schools, resulting in only 300 out of 25,000 teacher-training places concentrating on the three-tier system.

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