Stowmarket: Teachers anger over decision to turn down academy bid

PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 March 2012

Headteacher of Needham Market Middle School Jim Neale

Headteacher of Needham Market Middle School Jim Neale


A GROUP of Suffolk headteachers have hit out at Suffolk County Council (SCC) after their bid for academy status was turned down by the Government.

Headteachers from Stowmarket, Needham Market and Combs Middle Schools were reacting to the Department for Education’s (DfE) decision to decline their application to become academies.

The schools were expecting to become separate academies under an umbrella academy trust last November.

But after senior county council officials, councillors and MPs lobbied the Government, the planned move was put on hold.

In a statement Mark Cresswell, James Neale and Sally Holmes, headteachers of Combs, Needham Market and Stowmarket, said: “We are obviously disappointed not to have been given the go-ahead to become academies from the DfE.

“They informed us that they wanted to give the local authority time to consult with us and draw up plans for converting this area to two tier schooling under Suffolk’s School Organisation Review (SOR) policy.

“Sadly, we have not seen any such plan nor been consulted in any way.

“Our aim in applying for academy status was to work together across all schools within an all-through model in order to improve outcomes for all pupils.

“We felt compelled to apply for academy status because we did not feel that the local authority had the proper resources to ensure that their SOR policy could be implemented effectively and to the level of quality that children, parents and staff deserve. This remains our view.”

In January the council’s cabinet approved £5.5m of capital investment funding for the transfer to a two-tier system - a move which will affect 15 schools in the area.

Councillor Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services, said: “Whilst we welcome schools being managed in different ways, with a variety of teaching approaches, a move that could lock us in to the retention of the three-tier education system would not have supported young people in preparing to compete in an increasingly tough jobs market. The DfE has supported this view.

“Until we knew the outcome of the applications, we were not in a position to consult on a plan. Now the outcome is clear, we will be offering the middle schools the opportunity work in partnership with the council and other local schools to develop options for the future of education in the area.

“There remains a gap of 7.5% between achievement in the two tier and three tier systems at age 11.

“We are committed to improving outcomes for all young people and the change to a two-tier system will be a major contribution to ensuring this happens.

“The majority of headteachers in the Stowmarket and Stowupland area support the county council’s view that children would do better in a two tier system. We are committed to helping schools in the area develop proposals to move to a two tier system. Once options for the future have been developed, full consultation will take place.”

The council has said once options for the future have been developed, a full consultation will take place.

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