Parents concerned over capacity at west Suffolk schools after closures announced

Bury St Edmunds School

Councillors from Bury ST Edmunds have weighed in on the announcement that two schools will close next year - Credit: Google Maps/SCC/Mariam Ghaemi

Concerns have been raised about the availability of places at primary and high schools in Bury St Edmunds after it was revealed two middle schools - the last remaining in Suffolk - are to close.

Councillors and parents have shared their concerns over capacity at neighbouring schools, fears over congestion as more parents attempt to get their children and also the future use of Westley Middle and Horringer Court Middle school sites after they close in August 2023.

The proposed closures were announced yesterday by Unity Trust, which runs the schools, following a fall in pupil numbers at the two middles, the closures would see Suffolk become an entirely two-tier system.

Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council cabinet member. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

County councillor for Hardwick, Richard Rout - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Richard Rout, county councillor for Hardwick, believes decision is not necessarily a bad thing, he said: “Clearly all of us in Bury St Edmunds want children in our town to have the best possible education and if these proposals seek to improve that, it should on face value be welcomed. However, access to that education is paramount.

"We’ve still got the brilliant Westgate Primary which isn’t part of the Unity Trust but I’m sure parents will have question marks over where their children will go, whether there are capacity issues, and may understandably have real concerns over the distance to Unity’s other sites."

Cllr Rout added that clarity is needed over the future of the Horringer Court site, he said there will be some who say "it will inevitably become housing".

Though he believes the school site is a "valuable community asset" and should have some guarantee that it will continue to be so after it is released from educational use.

Long-standing independent councillor David Nettleton, who has won a seat on the new Tollgate ward Pi

Tollgate county councillor David Nettleton - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

Tower division county councillor David Nettleton was a parent of a child at Tollgate Primary, which along with County Upper will have its age ranges extended to make it fit the two-tier system.

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He said: "In respect of Tollgate Primary – where I was a parent for seven years – and County Upper, I am already worried about traffic congestion twice daily in Tollgate Lane and Beetons Way, and the resultant reduction in air quality arising from poisonous emissions from the exhaust pipes of petrol and diesel engine cars.

"The public consultation must not be rushed as this is an important decision for Bury St Edmunds. We have to get it right."

One parent Rachelle commented online: "My daughters have flourished at Horringer. I'm now faced with a decision to remove them from their friends and move them to a local school as currently we pay £30 weekly for the bus, plus 2.5 hours extra travel, which I could justify for the extras they received. I'm totally gutted. And the poor staff. So gutted for them too."

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