Bury St Edmunds: Best for Bury action group launches to fight plans for two-tier education

Headteacher Geoff Barton from King Edwards VI School in Bury St Edmunds.

Headteacher Geoff Barton from King Edwards VI School in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

A community action group has been launched to fight controversial plans for an educational shake-up in the Bury St Edmunds area.

Best for Bury is opposed to Suffolk County Council’s proposal for two-tier education, which it claims is “not fit-for-purpose”.

The group is made up of the Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants, Suffolk Action for Truth on SOR (School Organisation Review), Voices West Suffolk and St James Action Group.

Consultation is under way on plans to close four middle schools - Howard, Hardwick, St James CEVA and St Louis Catholic Middle - paving the way for just primaries and secondaries, and launching a secondary school at Moreton Hall.

The Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust - an all-through structure made up of “outstanding” County Upper School, Westley and Horringer Court Middles and Barrow Primary - is not part of the proposals.

Best for Bury, which supports an “all-through vision” for the whole town, has set up a petition calling on the county council to drop its plans or put them to independent scrutiny through the school’s adjudicator.

The county council believes two tier will raise attainment and this system alongside the Bury Academy Trust would give parents choice.

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A Best for Bury spokesperson said the group believed two-tier would not work in Bury, adding: “Our concern is if two tier goes ahead there will be two parallel systems that won’t connect with each other so it will create real disjoin within the community.”

The group says it was formed due to a range of concerns about the SOR plans, including children on the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates would be cut off from accessing their local upper school - County Upper - unless they attended Horringer Court or Westley Middles.

County Upper School headteacher Vicky Neale said the school has had no input with Best for Bury, but added: “I’m not surprised [it has been formed] to be honest because there’s been huge strength of feeling in the town all-through is what a lot of people want the town to do.”

Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School, the upper school in the Bury Schools Partnership of 19 schools, said he believed the majority of parents supported the principles of two tier, but what worried them is where their child might go to school.

He added: “Whatever system we are in we should work to make sure parents have got a proper choice in year seven. If elected representatives make the decision for two-tier education, the academy trust should consider therefore taking in some year sevens [to County Upper School] so that parents aren’t unnerved about whether their child will get a place in a secondary school.”

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said SOR had already had a positive impact on approving attainment elsewhere in the county.

She said: “The current proposals for the education system in the Bury St Edmunds area have been developed with the Bury Schools Partnership who are, like the county council, passionate about providing the best quality of education for young people in the area.”

She urged people to get involved with the consultation, which ends on December 13.

For more information visit www.suffolk.gov.uk

To sign Best for Bury’s petition, and for more information, visit www.bestforbury.info