Students vow to save school

PUPILS at an Essex school threatened with closure have spoken passionately about their hopes of saving it and preventing the “heart being ripped out” of their community.

James Hore

PUPILS at an Essex school threatened with closure have spoken passionately about their hopes of saving it and preventing the “heart being ripped out” of their community.

The Thomas Lord Audley School (TLA) in Colchester has been earmarked for closure by Essex County Council as part of a shake-up of secondary education in the town.

Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield recently unveiled proposals to close TLA and Alderman Blaxill School, saying his preferred option is to replace them with an academy built on, or near, the Sir Charles Lucas school site.

The announcement stunned pupils and staff at TLA because Oftsed inspectors have only just told the once-failing school it was “rapidly improving” and had posted its best GCSE results for years.

At a meeting of the school's council yesterday , the pupils spoke passionately about their fears for the future and of their support for their own “community option” - merging with Stanway and Alderman Blaxill schools to create a single school operating on three sites.

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Assistant headteacher David Boggis said the single school's GCSE results would immediately raise to more than 50% pass rate at five A-Cs at GCSE, way above the target set by the Government to prevent closure.

But last night Essex County Council said it had to consider the long-tem future of education standards in Colchester and its £100million investment would provide the much-needed “world-class” conditions for learning.

Head boy at TLA, Matt Redgrave, from West Mersea, said: “They said we were improving, so really we just felt sheer shock and outrage when we were told what was happening.

“It seems like whatever we do, they will shut us down anyway. What do we have to do for these people to go away?”

Liam Ward, chairman of the governors, said: “The community option will enable Lord Hanningfield to tick all the right boxes but still keep the school in the community.”

Dave Harris, the borough councillor for the area, said a petition to save the school had been embraced by everyone in the local area.

He told the youngsters: “People do feel passionately about this - don't get down about it. Politely and eloquently explain to the people who make the decision that there is another way.

“People are signing the petition in their droves, they want this school here.”

But last night a county council spokeswoman said: “We understand fully the attachment that some pupils and residents have with their schools, and the strong emotional links that exist.

“But as we have made very clear we must consider the long term future of education standards in Colchester and additionally the ongoing concerns around falling pupil numbers.

“This process is about creating a world class education for all children in Colchester, not just a few, and one that will bring £100million of new investment into the town's schools.

“This consultation is about looking at all the options, and have said that we happy to listen to any suggestions and ideas put forward to help achieve our goal of raising educational standards in the town.”

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