Mid Suffolk/west Suffolk: Middle schools given reprieve

SUFFOLK County Council has shelved plans to consult with parents and governors over moves to abolish middle schools in mid and west Suffolk.

Under the school organisation review, the county council had planned to axe all 40 middle schools in the county.

However, it has today emerged that because of uncertainties regarding funding the council has stalled plans to begin consultation over schools in Stowmarket, Stowupland and Thurston.

Those talks were scheduled to begin in February and March.

Instead the county council will be looking at other options such as setting up free schools and academies.

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Green county councillor Mark Ereira today described the situation as heralding the end of the county council as the local education authority (LEA).

He said: “This is the end of the line, the end of Suffolk as an LEA, with fragmentation, and all schools now choosing to go their own way, massive funding cuts, setting up schools trusts for anything left over.

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“It means years of unnecessary turmoil and pointless change to satisfy Tory party dogma.”

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people, said: “At the moment, the Government’s funding arrangements for school buildings beyond 2011/12 await the outcome of the James Review: the government’s comprehensive review of all capital investment in schools, early years, colleges and sixth forms.

“We will therefore have to plan the School Organisation Review in a different way for Stowmarket, Stowupland, Thurston and Bury St Edmunds.

“This includes working closely with the Department for Education to use the new opportunities which have arisen since the new government came to power to improve the standard of education across Suffolk - including the potential for academies and free schools where they help to raise standards.”

Letters have been sent to parents, school staff and governors in Bury St Edmunds - where the review has been put on ice until at least 2017 - and head teachers in other areas of the School Organisation Review to let them know of the changes to the plan.

Funding remains in place for the first three phases of School Organisation Review, where the county council has already consulted and approved proposals.

The county council’s plans remain unaffected in these areas.

The majority of building projects in phase one of the scheme in Haverhill and Lowestoft have already been completed.

The first changes to schools in phase two - Beccles, Bungay, Leiston, Mildenhall and Newmarket - will take place from September 2011, and in the Sudbury and Great Cornard cluster from September 2012.

Mr Newman said: “I really want to endorse the fact that the county council remains committed to removing barriers to children’s progress in the three-tier system, and to improving attainment in all Suffolk schools.

“This involves completing the move from three to two-tier schools in areas where the process of change has already started, and working with schools in the remaining areas to make the most of the new opportunities that we have available to us.”

The county council is reorganising over 130 schools in Suffolk from a three-tier to a two-tier system.

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