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Stowmarket: High school governors want to take on extra students from middle schools

09:18 04 February 2014

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A Suffolk school has “enough” space to take on almost an extra 500 children which would see its total student numbers increase by more than 50%.

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Governors at Stowmarket High School have unanimously agreed that all students should be based at its site in Onehouse Road instead of using a split-site approach to accommodate extra children coming from the middle schools in the area which are to shut next year.

That view is contrary to Suffolk County Council’s initial proposals which would have seen some students continue to use classrooms at Stowmarket Middle School.

Middle school pupils will begin going to Stowmarket High, which already has almost 900 students, in Years 7 and 8 from September 2015, following the council’s controversial decision to close the four middle schools in the area in favour of a two-tier system. The high school’s headteacher Keith Penn said there was a “match” between the amount of classroom space and the expected number of additional students.

“We certainly have capacity at the moment, we have a number of empty classrooms – it depends on how you arrange it,” he said.

A joint letter from the headteachers of schools in Stowmarket said parents’ biggest concern was over fears for children’s safety and security when walking between the sites.

Education chiefs admitted, during the consultation over the changes in 2012, that a new single-site high school was needed with plans due to be put forward as soon as funding was available.

When the council was proposing the changes to the schools it said that a split-site had been “accepted” as a “necessary” step for the continued development of secondary education in Stowmarket, which is regarded as one of the fastest growing towns in the region. The council had said at the time that travelling between the two sites, which are less than a mile’s walking distance, would be kept to a “minimum”.

Town and district councillor Lesley Mayes, a former chair of governors at Stowmarket Middle School, said: “The high school has got to meet the needs of the children who are going up there so that they are fully integrated there at school.”

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “We are currently working with Stowmarket High School to consolidate all of the secondary teaching on the main school site in Onehouse Road. The future use of the middle school site is still under discussion.”

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