School review plea from heads

A REVIEW of schooling in Suffolk which could lead to the abolition of middle schools looks set to be officially launched today .Headteachers at some the county's 40 middle schools last night trumpeted their benefits ahead of today's key Suffolk County Council meeting.

A REVIEW of schooling in Suffolk which could lead to the abolition of middle schools looks set to be officially launched today .

Headteachers at some the county's 40 middle schools last night trumpeted their benefits ahead of today's key Suffolk County Council meeting.

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, is set to formally call the review at the meeting.

Currently there are two systems operating across Suffolk with some areas having primary, middle and high schools and others just primary and high schools - but a county-wide two-tier system may be on the cards.


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Now headteachers have spoken of the vital contribution middle schools make to the education of pupils, with some people fearing the review could sound their death knell.

David Boatman, head of Foxborough Middle School, Lowestoft, said he believed the call for a review came from a notion that middle schools were not performing as well as primary schools.

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“There just seems to be people obsessed with numbers and targets. I think there is a lot more in middle school education than just those targets.

“Middle schools have a wonderful reputation. You get some specialist teaching in upper years, small classes and better care,” he said.

In the three-tier system pupils leave primary schools when they are nine years old to go to middle schools and then transfer to high schools at 13 years of age.

With a two-tier system pupils remain at primary school until they are 11 years old and then transfer to high schools.

Steve Wood, head at Leiston Middle School, said: “The system is working well to the benefit of the youngsters living in the Leiston area.

“We are able to give pupils specialised teaching at an earlier age and this, in turn, helps the children when they go on to high school.”

Richard Nichols, head of Halesworth Middle School, is pleased that talk of a review is now being openly discussed and hopes as many people as possible will take part.

Mr Nichols said if any changes were to be made they have to be in the best interests of the pupils.

John Poulter, head of Kirkley Middle School in Lowestoft, agreed.

“Whatever happens, it must be that the children do not suffer as a result.

“Norfolk has already decided it is going to happen so it doesn't surprise me, but it doesn't fit in with the key stage pattern,” he said.

At Harris Middle School in Lowestoft, headteacher Bill Carson said if the closure of middle schools was based on financial gain, the decision would be wrong.

“If it is for an educational reason, I don't have any objection, but if it is for a financial reason, people will be up in arms.

“I believe in a system that offers children a great deal that a two-tier system wouldn't,” he said.

Martin Goold, NUT county secretary, said middle schools were under pressure because of the changes in 14 - 19 education.

He said: “The government is insisting that from 2007 pupils in 14 - 19 education have access to a whole range of subjects which are offered in places such as colleges and further education.

“That means that schools will have to reassess the way they work, particularly in rural areas where they can't get to the college in school time.

“Middle schools are also under pressure because of testing, for example, pupils spend two years preparing for tests before transferring just before taking the test and this is affecting results.

“One way round this is to extend middle schools by one year but the short answer is we don't know.”

A spokesman for the county council's education department said last night that if a review was held it would not just consider the role of middle schools.

“The review is an opportunity to look at the whole system for children in Suffolk from early years right up to when they complete their full-time education.

“We need to be sure we are providing the best opportunity for children not just now but for the years ahead,” he said.

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