Needham Market: Concern new school classrooms will “cram” in students

Councillors and education chiefs at a meeting with parents to discuss changes to schools in Needham

Councillors and education chiefs at a meeting with parents to discuss changes to schools in Needham Market - Credit: Archant

New classrooms built to cope with extra students will offer the “bare minimum” according to concerned parents who have questioned fundamental changes proposed for Suffolk’s schools.

Parents and teachers spoke out against proposals in Needham Market to construct two classrooms at Bosmere Community Primary School during a public meeting at which Suffolk County Council was criticised for trying to “cram” children into the new facilities.

Additional students will be taught at Bosmere when the town’s middle school closes, which is expected to be in 2015.

Lisa Chambers, the authority’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, and council officer Phil Whiffing, were questioned for almost two hours on Saturday evening by about 60 residents.

Mr Whiffing, assistant director for school organisation and infrastructure, said the primary school’s headteacher and governing body were “satisfied” they would have the facilities needed to teach the children.

But a female teacher from Thurston said she was now “under extra pressure” because of similar changes brought in by the council as part of the county-wide School Organisation Review which is seeing middle schools closing in favour of a two-tier system.

“I have been observed and I am a good and outstanding teacher, but I still cannot provide what they would have had in the middle school,” she said.

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“Girls in PE have to change in the cloakroom – it’s quite small (and) I do not think it’s good enough but I do not have a choice.”

The council has budgeted £400,000 for the changes in Needham Market which Mr Whiffing said had to be on a “different basis” to previous school closures in places like Lowestoft because there was a “very different financial background”.

“We have made it very clear to headteachers in the area that resources today are much less than they have been in the past,” he said.

“Headteachers are very happy that they can manage the space as it happens in a number of other schools. We are absolutely confident the headteachers in this area would not have wanted to go ahead if they could not deliver the curriculum.”

He said changing rooms were not a statutory requirement for primary schools and if it was a problem the council would receive complaints.

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, also spoke at the meeting, which was organised by the town council.