Bury St Edmunds: Tie-up between West Suffolk College and academy trust could see specialist vocational training centre


- Credit: Archant

A revolutionary new centre for vocational learning could be coming to Suffolk under innovative plans between an academy trust and a local college.

Members of the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust revealed details of the proposals at a public meeting on Monday. It could see the trust – which contains County Upper School, Westley Middle School, Horringer Court Middle School and Barrow Primary School – team up with West Suffolk College to provide the town with something akin to a University Training Centre (UTC).

The centres, traditionally for 14 to 18-year-olds, offer specialist vocational training and link up closely with local employers.

At Monday’s meeting at The Apex, Richard Fletcher, chairman of governors at County Upper School, said: “One of the biggest needs in the town is for a very good quality vocational education for students who are not academically bright.

“There is nothing done for all those students who really want to do practical subjects.

“Now they’ve got to stay in school until they’re 18, they’re already feeling disenfranchised because they don’t want to do these academic subjects, and the academic subjects are only going to get worse.”

Vicky Neale, headteacher at County Upper, said discussions had been had at Department for Education level about opening the centre to students from age 13, when they transfer to upper school.

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This would allow them to try the centre or traditional schooling for a year before making a final decision prior to starting their GCSEs.

Hundreds of parents attended the meeting, which outlined the trust’s take on the ongoing school organisational review in Bury.

The proposals would see schools in the town move to a two-tier system, with St James, Hardwick and Howard Middle School closing in 2016 and a new academy high school opening in Moreton Hall.

The trust, which is out of local authority control and unaffected by the proposals, uses an “all-through” model, where children go through schools in the same trust from age four all the way through to 18.

The system, which has drawn praise from Ofsted, sees the trust co-ordinate the curriculum, marking and extra-curricular activities across all schools.