Memories of Stowmarket middle schools are shared as they prepare to close their doors for the final time
Four Suffolk middle schools are closing in the next few days for the last time – but former and current students have been celebrating their hundreds of years of history.
Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bacton and Combs middle schools will all shut this summer as the county moves to a two-tier system of schooling.
The schools have been inundated with hundreds of past and current pupils, friends, teachers and staff attending open evenings looking back at memories of their time at them.
As the area’s schools have gradually moved to the two-tier system since last year fewer pupils have attended the middle schools.
The change was not an easy one for Suffolk County Council to get through. The authority faced angry parents as some questioned the logic behind closing four schools at the time marked as ‘good’ by Ofsted, while the two high schools in the area had ‘requires improvement’ grades. Since then Stowupland High School has received a ‘good’ rating.
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But education bosses persisted and insist a system without middle schools performs better than one with them. Ian Kearns, headteacher of Needham Market Middle School, said up to 800 people attended an open evening at his school.
“People have known the closure is coming for a long period of time and the four schools did try and become academies. Just so many people attended the last parents’ evening, some were in tears.
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“I am very proud to be here, we have been good with outstanding features for quite some time and the new results that have come through are really positive and strong but we know the change is coming about and we hope that what follows is better than what we have given, that’s all we hope for.”
In 2011, the Department for Education turned down the four schools’ bid to work together in an academy trust, which would have prevented their closure.
Bacton Community Middle School has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Headteacher Ian Belham said staff had been “carrying on as normal” despite the looming closure.
“It’s really interesting with people coming in who cannot believe the school is closing because of the positive effect the school had on them,” he said.
“Staff are obviously naturally disappointed that the school is closing, it’s been a good school for a long time and is highly thought of in the community, a lot of staff have invested a lot of time in the school. We have members of staff who have invested 20 years here.”
Mr Belham, who has been Bacton’s head for seven years, is moving on to be Eye Primary School’s headteacher from September.
Mark Cresswell, headteacher of Combs Middle School, based in Stowmarket, wrote in a book which celebrates the school’s history: “Middle schools are special places; full of remarkable children doing amazing things; great resources; inspiring staff; tremendous pastoral care – all assets that we offer, as the children grow through our school.
“Combs Middle is one of those places; looking back through this book at the great achievements, skills and learning, as well as the enjoyment and fun over the years, we can see what a great void will be left in Stowmarket for pupils of the middle school age.
Pupils’ final day at Combs, Needham and Bacton schools will be on Friday. Children at Stowmarket middle will continue to attend until Wednesday.
Kate Kingsford-Bere, acting deputy headteacher of Stowmarket Middle School, said: “Stowmarket middle is proud of its achievements, it is a good school with a committed staff and talented pupils – it is with great sadness that it is to close its doors to pupils for the final time at the end of July. We wish all its staff and pupils continued success in the future.”