Stowmarket: Headteacher reacts to Education in Suffolk’s bid to establish rival free school

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Matt Hunter
matt.hunter@archant.co.uk
Saturday, July 26, 2014
6:00 AM

The headteacher of a criticised school has said the claims made by an educational group are “unsubstantiated”.

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Headteacher Keith Penn.Headteacher Keith Penn.

Stowmarket High School headteacher, Keith Penn, has reacted to the news that a free school group is looking to establish a site at the existing locations for Bacton Middle School or Blackbourne Middle School in Stanton.

The free school group, Education in Suffolk, has claimed some parents “do not want” to send their children to Stowmarket and Stowupland high schools.

But Mr Penn questioned where the group was getting its information from.

“Whoever the group consists of, they made at least one claim that is not only anonymous but unsubstantiated – that parents ‘do not want to send their children’ to Stowmarket”, he said.

“I don’t know, and it’s hard to ask an anonymous group, where they get their information from. Parents have a right to choose a school for their child and may do so for a variety of reasons.

“As far as I know, a small number of parents from this area recently applying to schools outside the area are mostly in a younger age group (middle school age) and colleagues in local schools have told me that the common reason given by parents making such an application has been to avoid being in a middle school during the final year before closure; not a comment on the quality of middle school education and not to avoid any particular high school.”

Education in Suffolk was partly setup by former and current teachers as well as parents.

The group points to the most recent Ofsted reports of the high schools where both Stowmarket and Stowupland were given “requires improvement” grades. But since then progress has been noted through mini follow-up Ofsted reviews.

A spokesman for the free school group said it was focusing on improving standards and that both high schools were “good in their own way”.

“The figures talk for themselves – Stowmarket High School is about 120 kids short,” he said.

“Most of the kids are going from the middle schools to Thurston, Debenham and Hartismere – they are going out of the catchment area because of parents’ choice.

“We are not doing this for ourselves. If there is not enough interest the project will not proceed.”

He added that so far feedback was pointing overwhelmingly at favouring the Bacton site. Mr Penn questioned the 120 children figure and to which section of the school it is claimed to apply to.

Both Bacton and Blackbourne middle schools are to close as part of the county council’s education shake-up.

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