Bury St Edmunds: Schools agree shock move to two-tier system

HEADTEACHERS in a west Suffolk town have unanimously agreed to do away with middle schools and move to a two-tier system.

Suffolk County Council halted its school organisation review (SOR) in Bury St Edmunds because of funding shortages.

Its decision meant a stay of execution for the town’s middle schools until 2017.

However, in a shock announcement the Bury St Edmunds Partnership of Schools has stated it intends to press ahead with a two-tier shake-up despite the county council’s funding issues.

It could mean the town has a two-tier education system by 2016.

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Partnership spokeswoman Sue Herriott said 27 primary, middle, upper and special school headteachers had “unanimously agreed to move to two-tier models of education across all schools in Bury”.

She said: “The details enabling the change will now be drawn up by officers of the local authority.

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“The earliest possible date for implementation is likely to be September 2016. The schools in the Catholic pyramid will continue with their current plans subject to the outcomes of the public consultation.

“Our aim now and in the future is to continue to provide exceptional educational opportunities for each of our pupils in each of our schools, and to work together to ensure this exciting development is done in the interests of all children and their parents and for the well-being of our staff.

“As plans for the schools are developed by officers, they will be put out for formal consultation to governors and parents, and other interested parties.”

King Edward VI headteacher Geoff Barton said: “I am sure most parents will be relieved the uncertainty of the past few months has now been removed.

“There is a strong sense of collective leadership across the town, with the heads of all 27 schools believing we can work together to create the best opportunities for our pupils in every school.

“The decision to work as one and to have a clear time-frame enables the detailed planning to get under way, so that we can build on all the best features of the three-tier system and move education in Bury St Edmunds to become truly exceptional.”

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services, last night welcomed the support for two-tier education.

“I am extremely heartened by the agreement between headteachers in Bury to develop proposals for a two-tier system,” he said.

“The headteachers have asked Suffolk County Council officers to help develop a plan and to secure the funding to implement it.

“Once a plan and resources are in place, there will be public consultation before any changes can be made.

“The evidence continues to show a move to a two-tier system of education in Bury will lead to better progress for all children and in the meantime, we will continue to work in partnership with schools to improve attainment and progress within the present system.”

But Louise Allen, county secretary for the teachers’ union NASUWT, said the group had not been consulted on the move at all.

She added the move could mean redundancy for many staff .

“I am very disappointed we haven’t been consulted on this,” she said.

“They haven’t even had the courtesy to inform us of their decision. This must be something parents are very concerned about.

“A systematic change has been imposed which is a very costly way of trying to raise standards. Staff are very angry and disappointed. Suffolk is losing a huge number of really good teachers to the system.”

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