Bury St Edmunds: Shock as “outstanding” school to be axed
COMMUNITY leaders last night voiced their shock after it emerged one of west Suffolk’s top performing schools was to be axed.
St Louis Middle School in Bury St Edmunds was rated “outstanding” by the education watchdog Ofsted earlier this year.
Ofsted praised the Catholic school’s “excellent leadership”, “outstanding” curriculum and “good quality teaching”.
But while Suffolk County Council’s school organisation review (SOR), which set out to abolish all 40 of the county’s middle schools, has been shelved for the Bury area until at least 2016, it has now emerged that the East Anglia Diocese wants to do away with St Louis.
As a result, St Louis is expected to close in 2013.
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Because of the closure, St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury will become an 11-18 school and the town’s St Edmunds school will become a primary for children aged four to 11 years old.
In a letter seen by the EADT, Rev Roger Sparks, chairman of the East Anglia Diocesan Schools’ Service Commission, said: “After much consideration and deliberation, the commission decided that statutory proposals should be published in order that the Bury St Edmuynds Catholic schools become part of a two tier system.
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“St Louis Middle school will cease to be a middle school from September 2013.
“The commission acknowledges the outstanding quality and standard of education achieved by St Louis Middle.
“However, the decision reflects a need to change our education system so that it can be consistent and accessible across a range of schools with the Catholic pyramid.”
In a letter sent home to parents last night, head teacher at St Louis, Anne Mansfield, said: “I am very proud and privileged to be the headteacher of St Louis Middle School and its outstanding staff who, despite their very grave personal worries, have made it abundantly clear that it is the children who are their prime concern.”
“We will all continue to strive together towards achieving a vision for Catholic education in West Suffolk which exceeds that which we already have.”
Mark Ereira, county councillor for Tower division and whose two children went to St Louis, said: “It is a very, very sad day for Bury. The diocese are doing something which accords with the agreed Conservative scheme for Suffolk and which has been delayed until 2016 for primarily financial reasons.
“Once this comes out into the public domain there will be a public gasp. My son and daughter went to St Louis and it was probably the happiest of their school days. I cannot speak more highly of the school.”
The diocesan schools service said arrangements for consultation on the decision would be made in due course.
A spokesman for the county council said: “The county council remains committed to the SOR to ensure educations outcomes are improved for all young people in the county.
“Proposals for schools in the Bury area will be developed once the government has given more detail relating to local government capital allocations.
“Catholic schools located in the area have much wider catchment area covering areas of the county that are already moving to the two tier system.
“Therefore, to ensure young people, who want to, can attend a catholic school throughout their education, it is likely that catholic schools in Bury will move towards the two tier system ahead of the other schools in the town.”
A diocesan spokeswoman said: “No final decisions will be made without going through the full statutory consultation process.”