Bury St Edmunds: Action group calls for people to get involved in schools consultation

Consultation on School Organisation Review in the Bury area

Consultation on School Organisation Review in the Bury area - Credit: PA

An action group is urging people who think the move to two-tier education in Bury St Edmunds area is a “done deal” to get involved in the consultation.

Suffolk Action for Truth on SOR (SATS) says people should comment on the county council’s plans to close three middle schools - Hardwick, Howard and St James - in 2016 and for there to be a new academy high school at Moreton Hall.

The proposals would mean 13 primary schools would need to expand their age ranges to take year fives and sixes and King Edward VI School would welcome year seven and eight students.

The county council is proposing Howard Community Primary School would move to the Howard Middle site and is investigating whether Riverwalk School - which is a special school - could move to the Hardwick site and whether a voluntary aided primary school could use the St James CEVA Middle site.

The schools in the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust - County Upper, Westley Middle, Horringer Court Middle and Barrow Primary - are not included in the proposals.

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A spokesman for SATS said the “challenge” was to get people involved in the consultation.

“I think very many people have formed the view that it’s a done deal - ‘they have done it everywhere in Suffolk, of course they will do it, I’m just not going to bother’.

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“The only way we have seen it successfully challenged in the past was with St Louis [Catholic Middle School in Bury] in 2011.”

While an adjudicator upheld an appeal by governors against the closure of St Louis - which was backed by strong community support - it has been put forward for closure once again as the Catholic schools in west Suffolk are proposing to move to two-tier education in Bury.

The SATS spokesman said “the Bury schooling system is not failing,” adding there was a better option than two tier if reorganisation needed to go ahead.

“There’s a model in the town for how we could reorganise Bury for very low cost and in a way that can be seen to be producing outstanding results and that’s the all-through trust system the Bury Academy Trust has put in place.”

The county council’s consultation document said: “While many young people in the Bury St Edmunds area do very well at school, others do not do as well as they should, particularly when measured at the ages of 11 and 16.”

It said its research showed “where children change school at age nine and then again at 13 their progress is not as good as it is when there is a single change of school at age 11”.

In a statement the Bury Schools Partnership, which includes King Edward VI School, the 13 primaries and three middles, said if the proposals were agreed it would make sure “the process is as smooth as possible”.

Most of the 13 primary schools would need extra classrooms to cater for the extra students.

As the King Edward VI School site is too small for expansion, the county council is proposing to reduce the number of pupils in each year group.

The consultation is running until December 13. To comment and for more information visit www.suffolk.gov.uk

The SATS website is www.suffolkaction.org.uk

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