Schools protest rally cancelled

A PARENTS group last night cancelled a demonstration against plans to abolish Suffolk's middle schools after safety concerns were voiced.Members of Parents Against Change (PAC) approached police to discuss plans for a march in Bury St Edmunds next month to protest to Suffolk County Council's shake-up of the current three-tier education system.

A PARENTS group last night cancelled a demonstration against plans to abolish Suffolk's middle schools after safety concerns were voiced.

Members of Parents Against Change (PAC) approached police to discuss plans for a march in Bury St Edmunds next month to protest to Suffolk County Council's shake-up of the current three-tier education system.

However police were worried that, unless they could be issued with a breakdown of the number of child and adult protestors prior to the event, it should not go ahead.

Last night Steve Cowper, spokesman for PAC, said the group had now decided to cancel the demonstration on safety grounds.


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He said: “The safety of the children is our first priority and we fully support the police.

“When we approached them and told them what we were going to do they asked if we could give them exact numbers and we couldn't.

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“We really had no idea how many people might turn up and so, unfortunately, we decided the best thing was to cancel the march. It's a shame but we understand.

“At the end of the day we are all parents and we don't want to put any of our kids at risk - that's why we consulted with the police in the first place.”

Mr Cowper said a new “celebration of middle schools” had now been arranged for March 10 instead.

“We want to make sure it is done properly and have to act sensibly,” he said. “We want to work in partnership with the police and are happy to do so.”

But one parent has been left furious after receiving an email informing him of the conditions placed on the protest.

Dave Hitchman, who is a governor at Riverside Middle School in Mildenhall, which his 10-year-old son attends, said: “I think this is an unnecessary objection by the police, and I cannot think what they think they have to gain by getting in the way of such a moral protest.

“It is supposed to be a family protest, and no one will be looking for trouble, so I think this is lunacy on the part of the police who are trying to stop us participating in the democratic process.”

Last night police said any restrictions placed on public demonstrations were done so as a precautionary measure.

Simon Stevens, spokesman for Suffolk police, said: “In situations like this our priority is to ensure the safety of both those taking part in the protest and the general public who may be in the area when the protest is taking place.

“Our job is to facilitate the peaceful expression of opinion, but at the same time we must minimise any disruption to the lives of local people.”

Meanwhile, a meeting took place last night at Pakefield Middle School, Lowestoft, in which protesters quizzed councillors over the proposals, which would see Suffolk's 40 middle schools closed.

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