'Failing' Essex schools will not be axed

CONTROVERSIAL plans to close two struggling secondary schools in Essex and replace them with a specialist academy have been scrapped, it emerged last night.

Elliot Furniss

CONTROVERSIAL plans to close two struggling secondary schools in Essex and replace them with a specialist academy have been scrapped, it emerged last night.

The Government said it would “not be appropriate” to shut Alderman Blaxill School and Thomas Lord Audley College in Colchester.

The future of the two sites - in Shrub End and Monkwick respectively - had been uncertain for the last year because Essex County Council had outlined plans to see them replaced with a new 1,200 place academy.

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The move proved unpopular with parents and also drew criticism from the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

But last night it emerged that Colchester MP Bob Russell has been told by Government schools minister, Jim Knight, that it would “not be appropriate” to establish an academy in their place.

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Mr Knight told Mr Russell: “I can confirm that it has been agreed that it would not be appropriate to establish an academy to replace Alderman Blaxill School and Thomas Lord College.”

He added: “We are working closely with the local authority to develop a tailored solution to the concerns regarding performance and surplus places at these schools.”

Mr Russell, who has passionately campaigned to keep the schools open, received the information in a letter and said it was “wonderful news”.

“What we must all do now is to continue to campaign to make both establishments ones we all want and which the children deserve,” he said. “There is still a lot to do. This is not the end, but in some senses just the beginning of the future for both schools. It was wonderful teamwork from the community which has won the day.

“I am grateful to the Government for listening and acting, and also to the new-thinking at County Hall, which I am sure has also contributed to the decision not to close the schools and impose an expensive academy on Colchester which public opinion clearly showed it did not want to happen.”

Both schools are currently under the executive leadership of Jonathon Tippett, who is also head at the nearby Stanway School.

They were originally earmarked for closure because of poor academic performance and falling pupil numbers.

However, under the guidance of Mr Tippett, both Alderman Blaxill and Thomas Lord Audley have shown signs of improvement.

Mr Russell said he now hoped for the formal establishment of what he called the “Roman River Schools Federation” - bringing all three establishments under the executive headship of Mr Tippett.

Kevin Starling, who leads the Alderman Blaxill Parent Community Forum, which has campaigned to save the school, said it was “excellent news”.

He said: “Obviously, someone has taken notice. We're not a group that's now going to disband once we know the school is staying open.

“The campaign will continue and we have got to keep pressure on the staff at the school and the county council so that the education standards improve.”

Last night, Essex County Council declined to comment on the news.

failing schools which look set to be replaced by a specialist academy could still be saved it has been claimed

consultation finished in January.

council has said its preferred option for the high school would be to close it along with the Thomas Lord Audley TLA) School and replace them with a 1,200 place academy at the TLA site

poor academic achievement and falling pupil numbers

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