Pledge over middle schools

SUFFOLK'S middle school's will not be abolished in haste or without parental consultation an education chief has today pledged. Patricia O'Brien, county councillor with responsibility for children, schools and young people's services, spoke exclusively to the Evening Star as she responded to criticism of plans to close down middle schools as part of a wide-ranging review of education in the county.

SUFFOLK'S middle school's will not be abolished in haste or without parental consultation an education chief has today pledged.

Patricia O'Brien, county councillor with responsibility for children, schools and young people's services, spoke exclusively to the Evening Star as she responded to criticism of plans to close down middle schools as part of a wide-ranging review of education in the county.

Mrs O'Brien said parents, teachers and governors will be asked to participate in a second phase of consultation to work out the best way to “bring change about”.

She said: “This review is a whole range of measures to improve education provision for 14 to 19-year-olds in the county.

“A cross party policy panel came to the unanimous decision for change in order to meet the education needs in Suffolk for the next 30 to 40 years.

“This is not going to be done in a rush. We will take the utmost care and the education of our young people will come first throughout the process. The welfare and education of children is our primary concern.”

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Mrs O'Brien said criticism that the closure of middle schools, which is expected to save the county council £4.4million a year for the next 12 to 13 years, is purely a cost cutting exercise is “simply untrue.”

She said: “We are investing in education. There is money coming from government for building schools for the future, particularly to rebuild and refurbish secondary schools, and the first wave is due in 2008.

My message is that we are a responsible authority and we are not going to disrupt the education of our county's youngsters.”

Middle schools were introduced across the UK in the 1970s in response to oversubscribed primary schools.

Mrs O'Brien said: “97per cent of children in the UK are taught in a tow tier system and in most areas middle schools were phased out a long time ago.”

Are you worried about the closure of middle schools? Is it a good idea? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

85per cent of three-tier schools are significantly below the national average for progress made by pupils between ages 7 and 11. The figure for two-tier schools is 12pc.

17 out of 18 three-tier school pyramids (groups of schools) in Suffolk lag behind the national average for the progress of pupils aged between 7 and 11.

Suffolk is in the bottom 25pc of all authorities for mathematics at Key Stage 2 (119 out of 150 in 2005).

The lower performance in three-tier schools at age 11 is never completely made good for all pupils.

Academic performance in two-tier schools is better than in three-tier schools on key measures such as 5+ A*-C GCSE results and GCE A-Level results.

There is not a single subject where the three-tier schools exceed the performance of two-tier schools at GCSE, despite specialist subjects being taught for two extra years in the three-tier system.

The number of pupils staying on in further education in the three-tier system is significantly lower than that in the two-tier.

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