Middle school abolition to be delayed

COUNCIL chiefs were last night accused of “prolonging the agony” for school staff, children and parents after it emerged the final phase of a major education shake-up in Suffolk could be delayed by up to four years.

Laurence Cawley

COUNCIL chiefs were last night accused of “prolonging the agony” for school staff, children and parents after it emerged the final phase of a major education shake-up in Suffolk could be delayed by up to four years.

Suffolk County Council had hoped to complete its controversial school organisation review (SOR), which will see all 40 middle schools abolished as part of plans to impose a two-tier education system across the county, by 2013.

But yesterday the authority confirmed the process could now be ongoing until at least 2017 - four years longer than planned.


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It claims the delays are underpinned by financial uncertainty and said it remained 100% committed to the project - despite the fact that under a separate review of local government, the council might not exist in 2017.

County Hall was yesterday accused of wasting taxpayers' cash on the scheme and of plunging schools and parents into more than a decade's worth of uncertainty.

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The delays affect Stowmarket, Stowupland, Thurston and Bury St Edmunds, which form phase three of the SOR. Under the new timetable, changes proposed for Stomarket and Stowupland would come into force in 2014, for Thurston in 2015 and in Bury during 2017.

Mark Ereira, Green and Independent group spokesman for children schools and young people's services, said: “This will really be prolonging the agony for schools in Bury area - over a decade of uncertainty for schools, pupils and parents.

“This seems cruel to the Green and Independent Group, and a wilful undermining of morale and misuse of public money.

“The SOR team is costing the taxpayer a massive �7m a year or a further �50m between now and 2017 - money that could be actually spent on children's education but instead soaked up by high salaries for education officials.”

Sandy Martin, Labour group leader on the council, said he was concerned about the impact of the changes on children in the affected areas.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children and young people, said: “The timeframe we have set out reflects the new financial climate.

“We cannot make unconditional commitments until there has been a comprehensive spending review by the new government next year but this is a timeline which we intend to deliver on.

“If levels of funding are better than we have budgeted for we would consider whether to implement the changes more quickly. The county council remains 100% committed to the review.”

Geoff Barton, head teacher at King Edward VI School in Bury, said he felt it would be important for schools, including middle schools, to work closely in the Bury area to improve standards in the “absence of much external activity”.

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