Heads plea to save middle schools

HEADTEACHERS have come out strongly in support of middle schools as Suffolk County Council begins a review into their future.The council is planning a wide-scale review of schools that could result in changing the three-tier structure of primary, middle and high schools to two - with middle schools under threat.

HEADTEACHERS have come out strongly in support of middle schools as Suffolk County Council begins a review into their future.

The council is planning a wide-scale review of schools that could result in changing the three-tier structure of primary, middle and high schools to two - with middle schools under threat.

There are currently 40 middle schools across Suffolk.

Steve Wood, headteacher of Leiston Middle School, said: “I left Nottinghamshire to move to Suffolk because the Mansfield area where I was living at the time was abandoning the middle schools system.


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“I am in favour of middle schools both as a professional teacher and as a parent. I believe that pupils do best when they attend a middle school before going on to high school.”

Across different parts of Suffolk there are both three-tier and two-tier systems operating.

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In the three-tier system pupils leave primary schools when they are nine years old to attend middle schools before going on to high schools when they become 13 years old.

Richard Nichols, headteacher at Halesworth Middle School, said a review of this kind had been talked about for some time.

“I am pleased that at last the review is out in the open and everyone will have an opportunity to have their say,” he said.

“It is my opinion that the only reason to justify any change is if it can be proved that it is in the best interests of pupils. The interests of the children must come first,” he said.

Philip Vigrass, head of Scaltback Middle School, Newmarket said axing middle schools would be a “backward step”.

“As has been seen in Ofsted inspections in Suffolk middle schools, in terms of behaviour and the ethos of the school, the way children interact and help one another, these things are at a much higher level than the national average.

“People have recognised the benefits of middle schools and visitors are generally surprised at how well the children interact with one another and the general attitude to learning, we have very, very few disaffected teenagers, compared with elsewhere.”

Julie Bidwell, headteacher at Westley Middle School, Bury St Edmunds, said: “Certainly it would be regrettable, the review is taking place as you have to keep reviewing schooling in order to make sure the children are getting the best education available with in the available resources.

“Speaking as a private individual and a parent whose children have been through the three-tier system, I would be very sad about this.”

Sue Nichols, of Blackbourne Middle School, Stanton, near Bury, said: “I think often in middle schools, children have a very rewarding experience and become well-focussed through access to specialist teaching.

“In the eyes of parents, governors, teachers, Ofsted and of course the pupils, they are very highly thought of.

“When the children go on to upper school they are ready to take the next step, the personal and social development that goes on between nine and 13 is crucial and there is a danger that may be lost.”

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services with Suffolk County Council, is set to formerly call for the review at a county council meeting on Tuesday, January 10.

Mrs O'Brien said the review would be carried out by a panel consisting of councillors, Diocesan authority members, and representatives from the Learning and Skills Council, who would also rely on the views of head teachers and governors.

She said that if the panel found it was better to have a two-tier system than a three-tier system further consultations would be held.

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