Bury St Edmunds: Heated meeting hears School Organisation Review (SOR) is ‘dividing community’

Vicky Neale, headteacher of County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds

Vicky Neale, headteacher of County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Archant

Plans to close three middle schools in Bury St Edmunds are “dividing” the community, an estate’s leading figure has voiced.

Angry parents and community leaders attended an open event at Howard Middle School on Thursday, which marked the end of the first week of consultation meetings on proposals to move to a two-tier structure of education in the Bury area.

If approved, Howard, Hardwick and St James middle schools would shut in 2016 and there would be a new academy high school at Moreton Hall.

People packed out the hall at Howard Middle, but could not raise issues in an open question and answer session and instead were split into discussion groups.

Parents were concerned their children would no longer be able to feed into nearby “outstanding” County Upper School and would instead be forced to go to King Edward VI School or travel across town to the new Moreton Hall school.

County Upper - which is in an all-through academy trust with Barrow Primary and Westley and Horringer Court middles - will continue to take pupils from year nine as the trust schools are not involved in the two-tier proposals.

Addressing the county council, Ernie Broom, chairman of HEART (Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants), said: “You are causing problems within the community. You are dividing our community by doing this.”

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The chairman of governors at County Upper, Richard Fletcher, said even if all the Horringer Court and Westley students moved up to County Upper there would still be about 60 places left, but children could not join from a primary.

County Upper headteacher Vicky Neale was anxious to stress the school still wanted Howard Middle children. “The school, the trust and me personally want them.”

She said she had wanted to explain this to parents at the start of the meeting, but was blocked from doing so.

Phil Whiffing, of Suffolk County Council, said he wanted all the meetings to be in the same format, adding parents had been made aware she was there.

Mr Broom criticised the lack of a public question and answer session, adding: “This meeting is a bit of a sham.”

Howard Middle headteacher Greg Sadler said it did not work if there were lots of people asking questions to those at the front.

For more information on the consultation, which runs until December 13, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk