Ipswich defends unitary education plans

A COUNCIL chief hit back last night at criticism of Ipswich's bid for unitary status, saying education and children's services were being taken “extremely seriously”.

By Danielle Nuttall

A COUNCIL chief hit back last night at criticism of Ipswich's bid for unitary status, saying education and children's services were being taken “extremely seriously”.

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, was speaking after the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it could not confidently support the move until it was shown how splitting education over two separate authorities would benefit pupils.

The NUT has expressed concern about Ipswich's intention to take over the running of the five Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) within its boundary, which it said would leave South and East Suffolk with no PRUs for pupils from Hadleigh and Woodbridge.


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But Mr Hehir said last night: “First of all, Ipswich will be taking education and children's services extremely seriously.

“As far as the pupil referral unit is concerned, we will continue with the existing arrangements for outside of Ipswich.

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“We have had three separate meetings with heads of schools. We have another three set including one today.

“We have also written to all schools and chair of governors about our intentions. We have done everything openly. We are here to work with schools and the NUT and everyone concerned.”

Mr Hehir added: “We want to see improvements in overall education performance in Ipswich.

“We do not want to be totally prescriptive at this stage. We want to work with people who are at the front end of the service to make sure we provide a service that meets their needs and will get us down this improvement path.”

If Ipswich's bid to breakaway from the county council is successful, education services will be provided by both Ipswich and Suffolk administrations in their respective areas.

The Government has shortlisted Ipswich's bid for unitary status and has now put it out to public consultation. A decision is expected before the start of the summer recess in July.

It emerged yesterday that Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley has written a letter to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, criticising Ipswich's bid.

He said: “There is little evidence to suggest that services within Ipswich will improve and the process of reorganisation will have a serious impact on the wider quality of life enjoyed by Suffolk residents.”

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