July 29 2014 Latest news:
By Emma Brennan
Friday, April 5, 2013
THE sale of a soon-to-be scrapped middle school to a Christian church sect has been agreed, education chiefs have confirmed.
Stoke by Nayland Middle School is one of 40 Suffolk schools closing in July as part of the county-wide school organisation review (SOR).
In March, the Exclusive Brethren - more widely known as the Plymouth Brethren Christian church - put in an offer for the school site, which includes nine acres of land.
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said the sale of the premises to the Larchcroft Education Trust on behalf of the Plymouth Brethren had now been accepted and that contracts were being drawn up. No other applications have been submitted for consideration.
The spokesman said: “We have an agreement in principle to sell the site and grounds, and contracts are being drawn up subject to conditions - one of which is to get approval from the Secretary of State to dispose of the site. The contracts will not be signed until all the conditions are met.”
The Seckford Foundation, which runs the Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools, put in a bid to open another free school at the Stoke by Nayland site but withdrew after plans were refused by the Government.
Babergh Green Party co-ordinator, Robert Lindsay, who has criticised the county council for not being open about the bidding process said he was disappointed the school was to be sold to a private bidder.
He added: “The county should have done everything it could to keep it as a public building rather than sell it to the first people who came along and made an offer. It is not the best thing for the village community either because we already have a junior school, and a private school catering for children of the same age will only compete with it. In my view, selling the site to an extremist religious sect which believes in creationism and that women should be subservient to men will do nothing for the community of Stoke by Nayland.”
The Plymouth Brethren church dates back to the early 19th Century and its members run about 100 schools worldwide, including 45 in the UK. Two of the church’s other schools - one in Ipswich and another in Colchester - will be amalgamated on the Stoke By Nayland site, which will open as a day school in September for up to 200 pupils aged from three to 13 years, if everything goes according to plan.
Last night, Plymouth Brethren church member Chris Napthine who has been working on the project, said it was too early to make any comment on the deal as “nothing official” had been agreed.
“As soon as we have something concrete, we will be more than happy to talk to people about our plans for the school,” he added.