Clare school campaigners win MP'sbacking

A TORY MP has accused Suffolk County Council of turning its back on both Labour and Conservative principles by ruling out a community's bid to turn a middle school into an upper school.

Laurence Cawley

A TORY MP has accused Suffolk County Council of turning its back on both Labour and Conservative principles by ruling out a community's bid to turn a middle school into an upper school.

The county council is seeking to close all 40 middle schools and expand both primary and upper schools to take the extra pupils.

One of those earmarked for closure is Clare Middle School. But those living in Clare have set up an organisation called Clare and Local Area for Rural Education (CLARE) aimed at saving the middle school site and forging a brand new upper school, which would be called the Stour Valley Community College.


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However the county council has ruled out the idea as not “viable” claiming it would cost about �7million to set up - something denied by the CLARE group.

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo has now written to the county council's portfolio holder for children and young people Patricia O'Brien claiming if the Tory council was “genuinely Conservative” it would not dismiss the campaigners' hopes out of hand.

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“I am afraid it looks very much as though your decision has been driven by a slavish following of Labour dogma about “optimum” school size and increasing spending in urban areas,” Mr Yeo said. “It is clearly not based on what are the ingredients of a good and popular school or any understanding of how creating more choice will drive up standards in all schools. Conversely, there is no recognition of the detrimental impact the creation of new monopolistic super-schools is having on discipline and educational standards.”

Mr Yeo asked whether the council's decision, which he said went against both Tory and Labour principles, were related to funding.

“However, as you are elected as a Conservative Council,” Mr Yeo said, “I am not without hope that the county council leadership, in principle and instinctively, support the proposals from the CLARE group, for what is an eminently sensible and desirable development of the existing school.

“As it remains firm Conservative policy to support new schools like the one proposed for Clare, I urge you not to reject the CLARE proposal with undue haste.”

Responding to Mr Yeo's criticisms, Mrs O'Brien said: “I have written to Tim, to reassure him over our reasons for taking this decision.

“The decision has been taken after an exhaustive process, including a meeting with the CLARE Group and a thorough study of their proposals.

“As we explained to them, and to Tim, there are simply not the numbers of children to make such a school viable. To build this school would also take a minimum of �7 million, which would have to be taken from other schools' building budgets.

“Our proposals have the strong support of other Conservative MPs in the area, as well as Conservative-run Essex County Council, who would also be affected by any decision.”

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