Education revolution

FELIXSTOWE'S two high schools could be closed and replaced with one super-school for 13s to 19s, it was revealed today.It is part of a radical shake-up of education at the resort, with youngsters set to stay at primary school two years longer and start their GCSEs a year earlier.

FELIXSTOWE'S two high schools could be closed and replaced with one super-school for 13s to 19s, it was revealed today.

It is part of a radical shake-up of education at the resort, with youngsters set to stay at primary school two years longer and start their GCSEs a year earlier.

Parents are being asked for their views on the project, which could become reality by 2010.

Government cash for the multi-million pound new school - likely to be built on the massive Orwell High campus - will be available in two years' time and final decisions made early next year.

Other areas of Suffolk, too, are set for a big overhaul. West Ipswich will be one of the first with a sixth form college to serve several high schools.

Headteachers of both Orwell and Deben - only one of whom will end up with the top job - want parents to give their views but are urging them to look at the reasons for the changes rather than express “emotional attachment” to the current schools and established education system.

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One of the problems at the resort is that far less students than in other towns stay on to do A-levels, training or further education.

But Felixstowe is set to change massively with politicians likely to sanction new housing to encourage young families to stay in the area, and the port's growth and new industrial and business areas will offer new job opportunities.

Deben head Terry Ring said: “I think in the past part of the problem may have been a great deal of well-paid, unskilled work at the port.

“But that work is changing and there are also opportunities for skilled and trained workers in logistics and shipping and we need to ensure the qualified people for those jobs are here otherwise there will be wasted opportunities.”

It would also be a “more efficient and more effective use of resources” to have one school.

Orwell head Peter Tomkins said neither school was suitable for the huge changes and challenges which lay ahead - with education set to alter enormously with the variety of academic and vocational courses students would study in future.

Creating a purpose-built school would provide the best environment for the different types of lessons, IT provision, and practical courses.

“I think it is an exciting challenge but we know from the past that we must get it right, and we have that chance now,” he said.

As well as the headteachers, representatives from employers, private training providers, further education and education authority have been involved in the planning.

As yet no firm decisions have been made about what to do with the old high schools. Both would continue while the new one was built, then Orwell could be demolished, but Deben's could provide accommodation for specialist teaching for students from feeder schools.

Deben's playing field's would probably be used for housing.

WEBLINKS: www.deben.suffolk.sch.uk

www.orwellhigh.com

Are you in favour of a super-school for Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

CREATING one super-school for Felixstowe should provide more opportunities for students and improve learning.

Gone are the days when children would go to primary school, move to high school and spend three years working on a wide variety of subjects before choosing two-year GCSE courses and exams.

Students now - and even more so in the future - will be taking their GCSEs earlier or spending longer on them, have the chance to do vocational courses, subjects such as engineering and child care, or do courses which train them for specific jobs.

“At the moment we have buildings from the 30s and 40s built along the same lines as Victorian schools. What we need is a building appropriate for 21st century education and the challenges and changes ahead,” said Orwell High head Peter Tomkins.

“It will be a radical change from what we have now.

“But education is set to change radically, too.

“We need learning space and purpose-built classes designed to be appropriate for the curriculum rather than forcing the curriculum into spaces designed for something completely different.”

The new school would be for 13s to 19s, and would accommodate 1,300 to 1,600 pupils.

School numbers in Felixstowe are declining and the population ageing, and so it is felt the primary schools, where pupils will stay until they are 12 (end of year eight) will be able to cope as their numbers will not increase dramatically.

Pupils would choose their GCSE subjects before moving to the new super-school and then start them immediately.

“One of the aims will be to avoid too many 'transition points' - each time a student transfers to a new school there is a drop back in their progress,” he said.

“Another advantage will be to remove the feeling that students in years seven, eight and nine are sometimes seen as biding their time, waiting to start GCSEs.

“We feel many students know by year eight what they are interested in, which subjects they would like to follow, and would be ready to make choices earlier.

“Having three years for GCSE would enable some students to take the exams a year earlier and then start AS level a year earlier.

“The emphasis would be on building a capacity to learn and develop rather than subject knowledge.”

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