Anger as new school plans are rejected

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to build a new community college on the grounds of a doomed middle school have accused council bosses of being “short-sighted” after the plans were rejected.

Dave Gooderham

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to build a new community college on the grounds of a doomed middle school have accused council bosses of being “short-sighted” after the plans were rejected.

Project leaders behind the bid for the Stour Valley Community College in Clare spoke of their disappointment and described the decision of Suffolk County Council as a “wasted opportunity”.

While admitted that they had almost given up hope on the project, campaigners last night called on the public to show their disgust after the project for the current middle school site had been backed by local schools, councils and 1,500 letters of support.

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Jim Meikle , chairman of Clare and Local Area for Rural Education (CLARE), said: “We are all very disappointed and we are not very hopeful at the moment.

“We feel there are a lot of inaccuracies in the county council's reasoning and it is being short-sighted.

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“We had 1,500 families in Clare and the surrounding villages write to us and say they wanted a rural secondary school.

“I would urge the people who feel strongly about this decision to write to their councillors and MPs because very soon it will be too late.”

Mr Meikle revealed that the campaign team would be returning to the county council warning the authority that its educational plans were only based around the short-term whereas the community college was “future-proof” for more than 20 years.

He also questioned the county council's fears over money, insisting that the Clare college would cost between £4 and £7million rather than the £17.6million quoted by the authority.

Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP, said last night: “I am bitterly disappointed and I think it is a great pity that the county council have come to, what I think is, the wrong decision.

“This proposal had tremendous support from the local community and would have widened choice and raised educational standards for families in Clare and the surrounding villages.

“This is a wasted opportunity and if the campaign continues and people want to continue fighting, they will have my unqualified support.”

The county council wants to establish a uniform two-tier education system across the whole of the county, leading to the abolition of all 40 middle schools.

From August 2011, secondary school pupils from Clare are expected to attend one of the two upper schools in Haverhill.

In addition to preparing a draft proposal, campaigners gave the county council a 1,500-page “evidence bundle” containing supporting evidence and information.

In a letter to the CLARE committee, Rosalind Turner, the county council's director for children and young people, praised the “commitment, enthusiasm and effort” of the proposal.

But she wrote: “There is no evidence of the need for additional secondary school places in the area. Local secondary schools already provide high quality education.”

Ms Turner, who pledged that the county council would work with Clare Primary School to expand its site, said there had also been concerns that the quality of education and funding could also be compromised at other schools by the new plans.

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