Bury St Edmunds: Governor speaks out over school closure “travesty”

A GOVERNOR at one of Suffolk top performing schools last night labeled plans to close it down at least four years early a “travesty”.

When education inspectors from Ofsted visited St Louis Middle School in Bury St Edmunds earlier this year, they rated it “outstanding”.

However, two weeks ago the EADT exclusively revealed how the Diocese of East Anglia was planning to shut St Louis Middle School in 2013 - at least four years before Suffolk County Council planned to wind down all other middle schools in the area as part of the school organisation review.

As a result, St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury will become an 11-18 school and St Edmunds School will become a primary for children aged four to 11 years old.

Robert Everett, who has been on the school’s board of governors for the last 17 years, has now spoken out against the diocese saying allowing the early closure of the school would be both a “travesty” and “tantamount to abandoning” the pupils and staff.

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Mr Everett urged anybody with an interest in the school to voice their views to the diocese as part of its consultation process. He said while everybody accepted the school would eventually close in line with the other middle schools in Bury, closing it early was a big mistake.

Mr Everett, who is also one of the most senior councillors on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “We are not at all happy that St Louis will be closing before all the other Middle Schools in Bury St Edmunds.

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“If we let this ofsted-deemed “outstanding” school close, and do nothing, we are guilty of abandoning the pupils and the 64 teaching staff who will find it almost impossible to find new jobs in an education system that does not want or need excellent middle school teachers.

“We, as a governing body, know that St Louis will have to close.

“Anybody that has been lucky enough to have seen what well rounded children come through this excellent education system would not want to jeopardise it, please also remember that the date of 2017 given to the Bury St Edmunds schools is not a guarantee by Suffolk County Council that all the changes would be complete by 2017.

“This situation could last for much longer, or at least until this financial crisis has improved.”

He said if the county council’s plans were further delayed, or abandoned entirely in the future, then St Louis “would have been sacrificed prematurely”.

The diocese, however, claims the move is vital because the Catholic area catchment area extends beyond Bury to parts of the county which are already in the process of becoming two tier.

A spokesman for the diocese yesterday declined to comment on the matter. However, in his letter to parents, Rev Roger Sparks, of the Diocesan School Commission, said: “The commission recognise that these proposed changes will create mixed emotions. “However, the commission unanimously decided that the move to a two-tier system is necessary to ensure continuity of Catholic education for all Catholic pupils, wherever they live within the pyramid.

“The new system will help ensure a sustainable future for our Catholic schools and provide a framework in which the current high quality education for pupils can continue.”

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