Parents will march for middle schools

HUNDREDS of parents will march on County Hall in Suffolk today as part of an 11th hour bid to save middle schools from closure.Members of Suffolk County Council will later decide on the controversial school organisation review which, if approved, would impose a single two-tier education system county-wide - closing all 40 middle schools in the process.

HUNDREDS of parents will march on County Hall in Suffolk today as part of an 11th hour bid to save middle schools from closure.

Members of Suffolk County Council will later decide on the controversial school organisation review which, if approved, would impose a single two-tier education system county-wide - closing all 40 middle schools in the process.

Parents and young children from across the county today plan to gather outside the council's Endeavour House HQ in Russell Road, Ipswich in a desperate effort to get councillors to vote “no”.

Patricia O'Brien, the council's education portfolio holder, claims the recommendations will boost attainment levels in the county.

But campaign group Parents Against Change, which wants to save middle schools from closure, has threatened to take the council to the Local Government Ombudsman and, possibly, seek a judicial review if councillors vote for the changes.

It also claims the council's statistics are wrong and that independent research carried out by IT consultant Dr Viv Hughes showed attainment was not down to school types but the relative affluence of different parts of the county.

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Most of the middle schools are based in the west and north of the county but Stowmarket and Needham Market also have them.

Steve Cowper, of Parents Against Change, said: “They need to be 100 per cent certain of what they are doing. It is the most important vote they will make in their lives as councillors.”

Julie Bidwell, headteacher at Westley Middle School, said: “Save our three tier system - there are always improvements that could be made and the evidence shows those changes are already being made.”

But Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School, said the issue at stake was not simply about two-tier or three but about why Suffolk schools were “under-performing” compared with similar areas.

Praising the council for its courage, Mr Barton added: “There is the opportunity of a generation at hand, with significant amounts of money available to rebuild schools and to create a new university for Suffolk.”

The council's proposals have also come under fire from some politicians in the county.

Patricia Godden, chairman of Mid Suffolk District Council's scrutiny committee, said the committee had concerns about the “failure of publicity and consultation to fully engage and explain the proposed changes to the wider community”.

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