MP takes schools fight to Parliament

COLCHESTER'S MP has sparked a debate in the House of Commons about the best way to raise education standards in the town.

Elliot Furniss

COLCHESTER'S MP has sparked a debate in the House of Commons about the best way to raise education standards in the town.

Essex County Council is consulting on three possible solutions to address falling pupil numbers and under-performance at several of the town's secondary schools, while parents have put together their own alternative “fourth option”.

The council's preferred way forward is to close Alderman Blaxill, Thomas Lord Audley (TLA) and Sir Charles Lucas schools.


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Under the £100million plans, Sir Charles Lucas would be replaced with a new academy, while pupils falling within the catchment areas of Alderman Blaxill and TLA would be redistributed among the five other non-selective secondary schools serving the Colchester area.

But along with most parents and members of all parties on Colchester Borough Council, town MP Bob Russell feels TLA and Alderman Blaxill should be allowed to remain in a federation with the Stanway School - the “fourth option” - as is the current temporary situation

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Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Russell said lifting the threat of closure, which had been hanging over the schools since last year, would prompt parents to once again send their children to the schools.

He said: “The longer the uncertainty continues, the more that parents - not surprisingly - are voting with their feet.

“That is why numbers at TLA and Alderman Blaxill are depressed. Sending your children, at Year 7, to a school which the education authority wants to shut is not an attractive prospect.

“It is perhaps amazing that so many parents still have faith in the face of such an onslaught by people from County Hall who are not democratically answerable to the people of Colchester.”

Mr Russell called on schools minister Jim Knight to contact the council and support “the fourth option” as the best way forward.

The public consultation process closes on Friday and the county council has urged people to express their views in the remaining few days.

Council leader Lord Hanningfield said: “Change is absolutely necessary and could open the way for significant additional funding - running into millions - which may well not otherwise be made available to Colchester schools.”

“With a few days left to go, I am again asking residents to respond to the consultation. Whatever your views, it is important that all residents recognise that the status quo cannot continue and those that pretend otherwise are misleading the public.”

To find out more about the county council's proposals visit www.essex.gov.uk/colchesterschools while details about the fourth option can be found at www.tla.essex.sch.uk.

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