Bury St Edmunds: Concerns over Tollgate Primary and Howard Middle delay schools shake-up

Friday, February 28, 2014
8:00 AM

Sweeping changes to education in Bury St Edmunds have taken yet another twist after a group of opposition councillors delayed the decision in an attempt to stop Suffolk County Council “railroading” the proposals through.

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A group of Labour county councillors have demanded the results of the town’s school organisation review (SOR) be heard by the council’s scrutiny committee, despite its cabinet approving the proposals earlier this week.

The move to convert 20 schools in Bury to a two-tier system has now been delayed until the scrutiny committee passes judgement on the plans next month.

Sandy Martin, one of five to have called the decision in, said their objections centre on the inclusion of Tollgate Primary and Howard Middle in the restructuring, despite opposition from both schools.

Both schools have made moves in recent weeks to become academies and join the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust, which is headed by County Upper - the closest high school to both Tollgate and Howard.

Mr Martin said: “The county council has a view, which I’m not necessarily arguing with, that the whole education system across the county should be a two-tier system.

“But now they’ve got a situation with different schools being able to do different things. They can’t get a ‘one school fits all’ approach through anymore,

“What it seems they’re doing is trying to railroad through what they would have been able to do five years ago, but in the face of opposition at the academy and some of the other schools.”

Tollgate Primary School has been in special measures since November 2012.

Earlier this month the school’s governors applied to become an academy, but Suffolk County Council moved to replace them with an interim executive board days later - a move that had been in the pipeline since January.

The Labour group put forward four faults in cabinet’s decision - the uncertainty surrounding Tollgate, the way consultation results were analysed, a lack of information about the academy trust, and a lack of detail about plans for a new high school in Moreton Hall.

Council officers accepted all the arguments bar the lack of information about the academy trust.

The Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust is made up of four schools - one primary, two middle and one upper - in a three-tier system with an “all-through” model, which is designed to track children all the way through their education.

County Upper, which was rated “outstanding” in every aspect by Ofsted in September, has traditionally served the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates, where Tollgate Primary and Howard Middle are based.

The proposals will be judged by the scrutiny committee on Wednesday, March 12.

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