EDUCATION might not always hit the headlines, but soon after the New Year began one Ipswich primary school quickly found itself embroiled in controversy after 'banning' hot cross buns.
IN the second of our series looking back over the news of 2006, education reporter JAMES MARSTON looks back at a year which started with controversy and ended with high hopes for the future of our region's youngsters.
EDUCATION might not always hit the headlines, but soon after the New Year begun one Ipswich primary school quickly found itself embroiled in controversy.
On February 4 we revealed that The Oaks Primary School in the Chantry area of Ipswich, had banned hot cross buns until Easter for fear of offending a religious minority. Headteacher Tina Jackson, who asked school caterers to remove the cross from the buns, found herself in the middle of a media storm and appeared on television to defend her position.
The story caused outrage. Father Haley Dossor, vicar at St Mary-at-the-Elms in Ipswich's Elm Street, said the decision was an example of political correctness gone too far. He told the Star: “All religions have particular traditions, habits and customs and this is one of the traditions of the Church of England.”
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Miss Jackson, a headteacher under pressure, explained her decision as: “Obviously the hot cross bun is a celebration of Easter but it is not Easter yet. The cross is there in recognition of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ but for our students who are Jehovah's Witnesses, hot cross buns are not part of their beliefs.
“We decided to ask to have the cross removed in respect of their beliefs. It was just a currant bun.”
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Albert Berwick, a minister with the Ipswich Cavendish Congregation
of Jehovah's Witnesses, said he supported Miss Jackson telling the Star that the buns would indeed be offensive to members.
He said: “I can understand why the school has done this and I support the decision. Hot cross buns are a pagan symbol of fertility, no different to bunnies and Easter eggs. The Bible states we should not worship things of a pagan origin.”
Filming of the TV show "That'll teach 'em" took place at St Josephs College in Ipswich.
University Campus Suffolk (UCS), is the biggest education development in the region for nearly 50 years, continued to develop a-pace throughout 2006.
In late February UCS bosses announced the completion of the project's slick new website and revealed details of the UCS new brand. At a packed press conference of more than 100 people, held at Ipswich Town Football Club, UCS project leaders launched www.ucs.ac.uk.
The website detailed their vision, courses and the latest plans for the Ipswich education quarter.
Professor Bob Anderson, UCS chief executive who had been appointed in January, told the Star: “This is a key milestone for the project. This is our statement about who we are and what university campus Suffolk will do. UCS went live today.”
In March there was more good news as the treasury rubber-stamped a £12.5million grant from the East of England Development Agency to the project. The agency agreed to the sum in response to research showing that only 1.77 per cent of Suffolk residents take part in higher education, below the national average of 2.26 per cent.
Richard Ellis, chair of EEDA, said: “This is a major step forward for this innovative scheme which will increase access to higher education across Suffolk and beyond.''
Professor Bob Anderson, pro-vice chancellor and chief executive of UCS, told the Star: “This funding means that we can now push forward with the waterfront development in Ipswich, including the master plan for the whole Ipswich Education Quarter.” Phase one of the building starts in 2008.
The funding brought EEDA's total contribution towards establishing the new university to £18.17million - EEDA's largest investment in a single project. Reports of the developments at UCS became even more regular throughout the year. In April UCS bosses launched the first prospectus.
By early September the Evening Star was able to exclusively reveal to readers the first published plans showing what UCS will look like.
Just weeks later planning permission was granted and work is expected to begin on the landmark £20 million Ipswich waterfront building in February.
The development of the education quarter is expected to transform the town with an eight-storey, curved-shaped building providing a dramatic addition to the developing Ipswich Waterfront.
Meanwhile at Otley College we reported on major developments including the opening of a £1.2million equine centre in May and the opening of the college's £2m construction centre in October.
The college's head of construction Paul Williamson said: “The new centre has been in the planning for
the last five years and it has taken a year to build.
“We are the first college to get a new construction centre and it gives us the chance to prove how good our teaching is.”
The college is already reaping the benefits of the new centre, which opened its doors to students in September.
In November we revealed the first images of what Ipswich's new sixth form college could look like.
The pictures showed the proposals for the £40million development which could be built in Ipswich's Scrivener Drive. It is expected the college, which has yet to get the official go-ahead, will teach 14 to 19 year olds more than 40 A-level subjects, a range of specialist and vocational diplomas and International Baccalaureate qualifications.
Proposals put forward by a partnership of headteachers from schools in south and west Ipswich and south Suffolk have been submitted to the Suffolk branch of the Learning and Skills Council for approval.
Chairman of the school partnership Alan Whittaker, headteacher at Stoke High School, told the Evening Star: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity which could transform education in this part of the county and transform the life chances of an entire generation of young people.”
Mr Whittaker said the college would teach up to 2,000 students.
He said: “Up to the age of 16, achievement is very good in Suffolk but post-16 we are falling behind other similar counties. At the moment we have a partnership sixth forms and limited choice of courses on offer to our students.”
The partnership includes Chantry High School, Claydon High School, East Bergholt High School, Hadleigh High School, Holbrook High School, Stoke High School, Suffolk College, Thurleston High School, Thomas Wolsey School, Westbourne High School and Westbridge Pupil Referral Unit.
The schools and colleges announced they will close the current school-based sixth forms, which will replaced by the new institution.
Given the working title of South Suffolk Collegiate Sixth Form the new learning centre is hoped to raise aspirations of the region's students. It is hoped the new learning centre will be open in September 2009.
At Ipswich's Suffolk College, the Evening Star reported on a number of significant developments throughout the year.
Famous faces Jasper Conran, Bill Wyman and Ian Lavender were awarded honorary degrees. Before that, in April we exclusively revealed the first images of plans designed to replace the existing 40-year-old college. We reported that Suffolk New College - its new name - will comprise of three main buildings including a new 600 square metre sports hall.
Expected to be built in 2007 and opened to Further Education (FE) students in September 2008, the development is costing around £60m. The new 21,400sq m college will be built at the northern section of the new Ipswich education quarter, which will include the proposed University Campus Suffolk (UCS).
The new college will include a fine dining restaurant overlooking Alexandra Park and glass walled workshops facing Rope Walk - enabling passers by to see students working inside.
There will also be a large college square close to the new three storey atrium entrance. There will be parking for up to 250 cars on the campus.
A four-storey building which will house hair and beauty salons, care education and public service lecture rooms, a sixth form academy and business, leisure and information technology classrooms will be linked to the three story main building by a elevated walkway.
Costing an estimated £60million, the new Suffolk New College is using funds from a variety of sources.
Land swap with the East of England Development Agency £13.1million.
Further land sales £1.5million.
Borrowing estimated to be between £5m and £6m.
Learning and Skills Council £40m-subject to approval.
Suffolk College principal Dave Muller described the development as “A terrific opportunity and superb investment in the future of education in Suffolk.”
Demolition work began on the old Suffolk College in August.
By November the college main hall had been demolished and the college held its graduation ceremony, which included honorary degrees for actor Ian Lavender and musician Bill Wyman, at Trinity Park Conference Centre.
What do you think of your Suffolk school? Is UCS a good idea? Would you apply to go to the redeveloped Suffolk College? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow we review a year at Colchester Zoo - don't miss the great pictures of new arrivals.