£100m schools shake-up in Colchester

THREE comprehensive schools could be closed and a city academy established as part of a radical £100million shake-up of secondary education in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

THREE comprehensive schools could be closed and a city academy established as part of a radical £100million shake-up of secondary education in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.

On Monday a huge consultation - which will involve distributing documents to every household in the town - will be launched on the future of schooling for Colchester's 11-18-year-olds.

Three separate proposals for major changes will be put forward by Essex County Council. Each would see huge investment in rebuilding or redeveloping every one of the town's non-selective secondary schools, with some possibly relocating to new sites.

The first option - also that preferred by the council - would see the closure of Alderman Blaxill School, Thomas Lord Audley School (TLS), and Sir Charles Lucas School.

It would also see a multi-million pound, purpose-built academy located on the town's Greenstead Estate on or near the current Sir Charles Lucas site.

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The second would also see the closure of Alderman Blaxill and would lead to six secondary schools operating in pairs - Stanway with TLS, the Gilberd with Sir Charles Lucas, and Philip Morant with St Helena - under an umbrella organisation, the Colchester Education Trust. Thurstable School, in Tiptree, would continue to serve its current area but would be invited to join the trust.

The third option would see all of borough's comprehensives supported and run from a single, central office. Either TLS or Alderman Blaxill could close.

Yesterday Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, said that changes to the whole infrastructure of non-selective and non-denominational secondary education in Colchester were necessary because of the “prolonged under-achievement” of the existing system.

He told the EADT that some of the town's comprehensives were effectively acting as old-fashioned secondary moderns while others were highly sought after by parents.

Previous attempts to change the system, most recently involving proposals to merge the failing Alderman Blaxill and TLS schools to form a new academy, had not been radical enough to solve the inequalities, he said.

“These options are about providing all the children of Colchester with a world-class education, which the current situation simply does not offer.

“I am committed to delivering the very best education for children in Colchester - for too long we have talked about it, now we need to get on and deliver it.”

Lord Hanningfield said he hoped that whichever option was chosen it would be in place by 2013, which would include completion of the building and redevelopment of schools and any relocation programmes.

“This could be the best education system in the country. We are trying to do something very, very special for Colchester.

“This consultation is not about one school, or one set of parents. This is about the whole of Colchester.”

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