Public back bid to keep schools open

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save their schools from closure said they were overwhelmed by a huge show of public support at the weekend.

James Hore

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save their schools from closure said they were overwhelmed by a huge show of public support at the weekend.

Essex County Council (ECC) is currently consulting with parents about its plans for overhauling secondary education in the town in a bid to improve exam results and halt falling pupil numbers.

Its preferred option of three proposals is the closure of Alderman Blaxill, Thomas Lord Audley (TLA) and Sir Charles Lucas schools with Sir Charles Lucas replaced by a new academy on the same site.

Pupils within the catchment areas of Alderman Blaxill and TLA would then be redistributed among the five other non-selective secondary schools serving the area.

However, a fourth “community” option has been winning favour with those directly affected which would see Alderman Blaxill and TLA form a federation with the Stanway School.

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The two schools are already being run by Stanway headteacher Jonathan Tippett and have seen significant signs of improvement.

Teachers, pupils and governors from TLA went to Colchester United's home game against Hereford United on Saturday to speak to fans and gather signatures for a petition calling for schools to be saved.

David Boggis, assistant headteacher, said the response had been very positive.

He said: “It was humbling to find that so many supporters were willing to give up part of their weekend on what was a bitterly cold afternoon.

“We were delighted with the response we received with over 700 people pledging their written support for option four which keeps education in their local communities, creating three schools within a school.”

He said it was also staggering to find so many people who had no idea about the proposals.

The petition-signing came as Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, threw a new proposal into the ring - an academy geared towards Army families on the site of TLA.

He stressed the academy would be not be a recruiting tool for the Army but would have a military emphasis.

“It has been a thought of mine for a long time. There is a possibility that there will not be a school in that part of Colchester and we need to address some issue of very challenging pupils and also there are some particular demands relating to Army families,” he said.

He said he had spoken informally with army personnel who favoured the idea, but said ultimately the decision was down to the council and the Government.

Lord Hanningfield, leader of the county council, has said it is not an option to keep the status quo and he was trying to get “a better deal” for pupils in Colchester.

The council's final public meeting during the consultation period is being held tomorrow at 7.30pm at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

The council has said it will consider all comments submitted by the end of December 19.

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