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Anger at decision to force special school in Ipswich to become an academy

PUBLISHED: 12:09 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:26 31 January 2018

Open day for The Bridge School in Ipswich. The specialist school is also raising money to fund its new play area.

Open day for The Bridge School in Ipswich. The specialist school is also raising money to fund its new play area.

Three teaching unions have criticised the decision to force Bridge School in Ipswich to become an academy and are demanding the decision be revoked.

Three teaching unions have criticised the decision to force Bridge School in Ipswich to become an academy and are demanding the decision be revoked.

The Sprites Lane school is an all-ages special school and nursery for children with severe, profound and complex learning difficulties.

In October last year, and Interim Executive Board (IEB) was installed. Suffolk County Council say an automatic consequence of the IEB is that the school must now look at finding a sponsor and becoming a multi-academy trust.

A meeting of around 140 shocked, confused and angry parents and staff was held on January, 11 and many of them raised concerns that they had not been explained to why the IEB was put in place.

Headteacher of Riverwalk School in Bury St Edmunds, Jan Hatchall, was initially named Interim Chief Executive of the school and tasked with bringing about the academisation of The Bridge, however it is understood that she has since been removed from the position.

In a statement from teaching unions, the National Education Union, NASWUT and Voice, a representative said: “We believe the arguments for forcing the school into an academy are deeply flawed and have been based on a misinterpretation of the facts and circumstances.

“It has been stated that the school has poor pupil attainment.

“However, 84 per cent of pupils made expected or better than expected progress last year, when measured against progress in other special schools around the country.

“Issues with behaviour management have also been raised as an area for development. But staff report that since the Interim Executive Board was installed, they have been given almost nothing in the way of behaviour development training, leading many to question whether there was even a problem in the first place.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “The Local Authority has been working closely with the school, taking immediate action to strengthen the interim Leadership Team following the recent changes in governance at the school, to ensure that the education of pupils is not disrupted.”

“The Department for Education will appoint the sponsoring academy trust and we will work with the Regional Schools Commissioner and The Bridge School to assist in its transition to Academy status.”

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