Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 4°C

min temp: 2°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Stowmarket: Concern over new classrooms being fit for purpose

09:32 27 February 2013

Archant

NEW classrooms built as part of Suffolk’s controversial schools shake-up may not be fit for purpose, parents fear.

Heads ‘not told to stay away’

AT yesterday’s cabinet session Graham Newman faced accusations that headteachers had been “leaned on” to discourage them from attending a heated meeting about school closures.

Mr Newman said school leaders and governors had not been under any pressure to stay away from what turned out to be a tempestuous School Organisation Review (SOR) meeting in Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday night.

He did, however, acknowledge that heads in the Bury pyramid had been sent an email telling them they “should not feel obliged to attend” the session, organised by Suffolk Action for Truth on SOR (SATS), which was attended by council’s education top brass.

He said: “Heads were told that they were not obliged to attend last night - it was up to them to decide whether they attend or not.”

Schools in Bury St Edmunds will be the last to undergo the transition to a two-tier set-up and at Monday’s meeting at the Apex in Bury SATS campaigners called for the move to be scrapped altogether.

Extra facilities must now be built at primary and high schools in the Stowmarket and Stowupland area to accommodate more pupils after it was confirmed yesterday four middle schools – Stowmarket, Combs, Needham Market and Bacton – will close in 2015.

Graham Newman, the county’s head of education, insisted the new buildings would be up to scratch – but conceded less money was now available for the changes in the area than had been spent in other parts of the county which have already completed their phase of School Organisation Review (SOR).

It has led to fears that the extra classrooms will not be good enough, but Mr Newman said: “I accept that they are not ‘Rolls-Royce’ buildings but they are certainly a car that will get you from A to B.”

Last night, Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said he would be pressing the council to ensure accommodation was up to standard.

“The critical question I will be asking is ‘Have you got as much money as possible to deliver good accommodation at what will be expanded primary and expanded secondary schools?’. It’s my job to ensure that as much money as possible is devoted to expanding the schools.”

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet voted unanimously yesterday in favour of continuing with the next phase of the SOR, despite pleas from parents and opposition councillors to delay the decision.

It will see the closure of Stowmarket, Combs, Needham Market and Bacton middle schools, with pupils staying on for two more years at the area’s 13 existing primary schools – as well as a planned new primary school – before moving on to high school at Stowupland or Stowmarket at the age of 11.

Mr Newman argued the transition to two-tier education would help raise attainment by reducing the disruption to pupils through having to change schools twice.

He said parts of Suffolk where the SOR had been completed had already shown signs of progress and improved grades.

But concerned parents, speaking before the vote, urged the cabinet to postpone the decision.

Issues raised at the meeting included the fears about the quality of new classrooms, pupils’ safety when walking to and from school and worries about parking around some primary schools, which will have to accommodate up to 60 extra pupils.

Councillor Gary Green, who represents Stowmarket North and Stowupland, said he was concerned that plans to operate Stowmarket High School on a split site – using some of the buildings of the current Stowmarket Middle School – could lead to a drop in attainment.

He referred to The Denes High School in Lowestoft which was rated “good” by Ofsted in 2009 but since SOR concluded in the area – and the school moved to a split-site operation – it had been downgraded and placed in special measures.

He said: “What we need to know is what measures will be in place to ensure this doesn’t happen in Stowmarket. There’s 50% less money being spent than in the Sudbury area. This again doesn’t seem fair and doesn’t seem justified. Why not wait until the appropriate money for the job is there.”

Mr Newman said there were plenty of examples of split-site schools working very well and actually improving.

He added: “If we postpone this I think the money will be frittered away and spent on other things – that’s the last thing I want.”

0 comments

The We Love Bury St Edmunds supporters photo bomb the statue of St Edmund celebrating over a year since the group was born - founder James Sheen

Andy Abbott reports on how Facebook group “We Love Bury St Edmunds” has brought thousands of people together from across the globe.

Police have sealed off Stone Street in Crowfield after concerns for the welfare of a man at a property in the village.

A stand-off with a man believed to be armed in Crowfield which has been ongoing since 11.15pm on Monday has been resolved peacefully, police have said.

Ex Royal Air Force Serviceman Richard Philpotts, of Stowmarket, Suffolk was sentenced on 16 January 2017 to three years’ imprisonment following conviction in relation to a single victim of one offence of indecent assault on a child below the age of 14, committed between 1986 and 1987.

A former RAF corporal and scout master has been jailed at a court martial for three years for the sexual abuse of a boy scout more than 30 years ago in Germany.

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 18, 2017. See PA story POLITICS PMQs May. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

People must take flood warnings seriously, the Prime Minister has said after the region was put on high alert over a tidal surge last week.

A120 at Marks Tey

A potential new dualled A120 route between Braintree and Marks Tey will cost between £475million and £825m, it was announced yesterday.

Campaigner Jill Reece on the barrow crossing at Halesworth Station.

Work will be carried out next week to install gates at a station crossing on the east Suffolk rail line after campaigners fought off moves to close it.

The launch of the trial at Sudbury fire station

Lives have been saved as a result of a pilot scheme which has seen cardiac arrest emergencies in parts of the county dealt with by firefighters.

Most read

Great Days Out

cover

Click here to view
the Great Days Out
supplement

View

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

MyDate24 MyPhotos24