Education professionals say schools are ‘well-prepared’ for shake-up in Bury St Edmunds area

Andrea Smith speaking at the Bury School Partnership education conference at West Suffolk House in B

Andrea Smith speaking at the Bury School Partnership education conference at West Suffolk House in Bury. - Credit: Archant

Education professionals are confident major changes to schools in the Bury St Edmunds area are on track for September 2016.

Bury is the last phase of plans to close middle schools in Suffolk and introduce a system where students move onto secondary education after primary school.

Yesterday, Suffolk County Council - the Local Education Authority (LEA) - held a conference at West Suffolk House in Bury to help manage the transition, from building programmes, communication with parents and curriculum development.

There are now 20 schools in the Bury Schools Partnership (BSP), which was set up to make sure the move to two-tier education is as smooth as possible.

Rob Walden, assistant head at King Edward VI School and who is supporting the BSP, spoke of how “exciting” the changes are, adding “It’s working. It’s going to work, and a lot of the work is going in early.”

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He spoke of the collaborative efforts which have already been going on between the partnership schools, for example 700 primary and middle school children have linked up with King Edward VI School between early October and now.

King Edward’s new cohorts of year sevens and eights will actually start there over the summer in 2016, and these younger pupils will be in tutor groups with the older students.

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Mr Walden said: “One of the big issues is to make parents and youngsters know high schools are not scary places.”

Westgate Community Primary School is among the primaries which will be expanding to take on years five and six - with the year fives there from September 2015 - and this school will have a purpose-built extension with four classrooms, a communal teaching area and additional group room.

Jim Cleaver, headteacher of Westgate Community Primary School, said he was given reassurances yesterday there would be enough cash in the pot to equip the new classrooms.

Speaking following the conference, he said: “I think everyone is feeling very positive. Plans are in place at schools across the partnership and we are well-prepared for September.”

Joy Stodart, who is leading the county’s School Organisation Review (SOR) in Bury, said £23million is in the budget for the new school buildings in the area, including a new high school at Moreton Hall.

She said: “The schools are definitely on target in terms of where we think they should be in terms of their planning and decision making, and in terms of where the authority is we are on track in terms of building work and so on.”

Mr Walden added: “This really is an all-embracing approach: it’s about buildings and putting in the best facilities and having the best teachers, but ultimately it’s about the children and making sure we focus this completely on the needs of the children.”

The middle schools which will close at the end of the summer term in 2016 are Howard, Hardwick, St James and St Louis.

Schools in the Bury Schools Partnership

Abbots Green Primary School

Howard Primary School

St Edmundsbury Primary School

All Saints Primary School

Ickworth Park Primary School

St James Middle School

First Base - Educational Support Centre

King Edward VI School

St Louis Catholic School

Great Whelnetham Primary School

Risby Primary School

Sebert Wood Primary School

Guildhall Feoffment Primary School

Riverwalk School

Sexton’s Manor Primary School

Hardwick Middle School

St Benedicts Catholic School

Westgate Primary School

Hardwick Primary School

St Edmunds Catholic Primary School

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