Council accused over middle school axe

AN ACTION group fighting to save a village school in Suffolk from closure has accused county councillors of using “children as political pawns”.

Jonathan Schofield

AN ACTION group fighting to save a village school in Suffolk from closure has accused county councillors of using “children as political pawns”.

The Save Our School Stoke By Nayland campaign group is determined to see the village's middle school turned into a secondary school when Suffolk introduces a two tier education system.

But their aim was dealt a blow last week when Suffolk County Council announced it planned to shut the school alongside All Saints Middle School, Uplands Middle and Great Cornard Middle School.

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Pupils who would have attended these schools will now stay on an extra two years at primary level before transferring to Great Cornard Upper or Sudbury Upper.

Ronan Connolly, spokesman for the group, said: “We think county councillors know what they should be doing but they are hiding behind the apron strings of Government policy rather than representing the people from this area.

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“We put in a sound proposal with huge backing from businesses stating the importance of keeping a high achieving school in the village but this has been ignored.

“We keep being told by Conservative councillors that if they were in government it would be different but according to them their hands are tied by Labour's education policy. Our children should not be used as political pawns.”

He said proposals to bus hundreds of extra children to Sudbury and Great Cornard would also have a detrimental affect, not just on the children but on the schools accommodating the extra pupils.

“All the evidence shows that children perform better in smaller schools,” he added.

Commenting on the group's campaign, cabinet member for schools Graham Newman said councillors and officers had looked closely at the proposals but under current rules they did not stack up.

Nigel Bennett, Liberal Democrat county councillor and teacher at Great Cornard Upper, said the parents of children in Sudbury and Great Cornard were just as concerned about their futures.

He said: “This will put pressure on schools here too and these children are just as important. The policy to change to a three tier system was flawed from the start. We are facing a funding crisis in the public sector - does this mean pupils will in temporary buildings or in an annexe while the work on extending schools is completed? It was bad planning from the start that has put us in this position.”

Mr Connolly said the campaign group will now be canvassing all county councillors in an effort to gain their support in overturning the decision to close the middle school.

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