Parents celebrate reprieve for schools

CAMPAIGNING parents last night told of their delight after education chiefs ditched proposals to merge two Suffolk primary schools.

Will Clarke

CAMPAIGNING parents last night told of their delight after education chiefs ditched proposals to merge two Suffolk primary schools.

Suffolk County Council had proposed merging Paddocks Primary and Houldsworth Valley Primary in Newmarket on the latter's current site in Rowley Drive, near Newmarket College.

The suggestion formed part of the ongoing school organisation review, which involves scrapping all 40 middle schools in the county and setting up a uniform two-tier education system.

But parents at Paddocks Primary vigorously campaigned against the proposals, claiming the school's unique identity would be lost, their children would have to be driven to school and the community around the Paddocks would lose an important asset.

Yesterday, officers at the county council published a report calling on the organisation's decision-making body, the cabinet, to axe the merger plans.

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Instead, the cabinet has been urged to expand both schools on their existing site. The report said: “It is important for cabinet to listen to genuine objections to proposals for change.

“The major factor against the amalgamation…would seem to be the siting of the proposed new school on the current Houldsworth Valley site. Consequently, it is not recommended to go ahead with amalgamation at this stage, and that the alternative of extending both schools to form separate one form entry (30 places per year group) primary schools is agreed by cabinet.”

The news has delighted parents.

Louise Hamilton, leader of the Save Our Schools group, said: “This is fantastic - the best news I've had for a long time. We are still waiting for the cabinet but it is very, very positive that they've taken what we have said on board. It is absolutely fantastic and definitely the right recommendation.”

Patricia O'Brien, the county council's portfolio holder for children, school's and young people's services, said: “It is important for us to listen to genuine objections and consider them before making recommendations. The alternative to amalgamating the two schools was to establish both schools as separate one form entry schools (30 places per year group). As this option is consistent with the county council's principle for school organisation it is not recommended that the merger is pursued.

“However the governing bodies of both schools will be encouraged to work closely together to ensure the schools are fit for the future and the quality of education provision in both schools is developed.”

Although the two Newmarket primaries have won a reprieve, county council's proposals to move Tuddenham Primary five miles south west to Red Lodge have become a firm recommendation to the cabinet.

The number of pupils educated at the new Tuddenham school in Red Lodge will rise from 83 at present to 210 once it is built.

The cabinet will decide on the recommendations when it meets on February 5.