Bury St Edmunds: St Benedict’s Catholic School to extend its age range

A CATHOLIC school in Bury St Edmunds will now be able to take year seven students after Suffolk County Council cabinet members approved the change.

At Tuesday’s meeting it was agreed that St Benedict’s Catholic School in Beeton’s Way - which is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted - could extend its age range in 2013 to take 60 students in year seven.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Hugh O’Neill said: “I am certain that one of the most impressive points in the submission to the county councillors was the overwhelming support from parents for the proposal.

“Of the 77 representations received by the county council to the statutory notices being published, 67 were in support. This is 87% of responses - an even higher proportion than in our original consultation.

“From the beginning this proposal has been driven by you, the parents, especially in the outlying primary schools on our pyramid.

“On behalf of the governors of St Benedict’s, I would like to thank you for your support and encouragement over the past six months.

“We intend to repay that faith and support by providing the excellent education here at St Benedict’s that your children deserve, whether they start in year seven or in year nine.”

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The extension to the age range means children attending Catholic primary schools in Sudbury, Haverhill and Newmarket would not have to transfer to St Louis Catholic Middle School in Bury at age 11 and then to St Benedict’s two years later, if staying on in the Catholic school system.

Mr O’Neill told the East Anglian Daily Times: “The concern of these parents is because towns like Newmarket, Sudbury and Haverhill have moved to two-tier they were faced with a dilemma about going to local two-tier schools and avoiding the change...or they would have to go to St Louis for two years and transfer again to St Benedict’s.

“I think the overwhelming feeling from these parents was they wanted to have a direct two-tier Catholic option if that was possible.”

Mr O’Neill described it as an “interim” measure as the situation regarding the Catholic education system in Bury needed to be resolved.

The Diocese had hoped to move to a two-tier education system in the town, but following strong opposition to the closure of St Louis middle the school remains open for the foreseeable future.

Mr O’Neill said on the same day, but independently from the cabinet meeting, approval had been granted for a new classroom block with four classrooms at St Benedict’s which will be a base for year seven and eight students.

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