Suffolk: Heads attack county council over middle school moves

HEADTEACHERS have accused Suffolk County Council of “shocking” and “unprofessional” behaviour after it emerged that backroom talks have been held which could spell “disaster” for the county’s remaining middle schools.

Funding shortages have forced the council to suspend its controversial School Organisation Review in Bury St Edmunds until 2017. Countywide, the review sought to axe all 40 middle schools in Suffolk.

But it has now emerged the authority and headteachers at primary and upper schools have been in talks about extending their intake – which could spell disaster for middle schools.

The council admits talks have taken place – but denies being the instigator.

Middle school staff claim they only became aware of the individual briefings after the meetings took place, making them feel like “second-class citizens.”

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In a letter to Simon White, the council’s director for children and young people, the Middle School Heads’ Association claim the education authority has a hidden agenda.

“What has come to light recently has been, we feel, unprofessional, shocking and has had a hugely detrimental effect on morale and trust,” it says.

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“Sadly, we have little confidence in the local authority’s ability to lead and manage the changes they want.”

In the letter, seen by the East Anglian Daily Times, it is claimed the council’s education officers have been presenting headteachers with possible scenarios in which they could convert to primary or secondary schools, including costings.

Although funding for the review in the remainder of the western area has dried up, staff have been told primary schools could chose to keep their Year 5 and Year 6 pupils if they wished.

Upper schools could also choose to take Year 7 and Year 8 students if they wanted to.

But the middle school group fears this could lead to a “hotch potch” of schools following different systems in the same borough.

The consequences of the move could be “potentially disastrous” for individual middle schools, which could lose funding, pupils and staff, they claim.

Graham Newman, the county council’s portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services, strongly denied officers had approached staff over a move to two-tier education.

“Let us be absolutely clear that Suffolk County Council has been responding to requests from schools themselves to discuss potential school-led ways of moving to a two-tier system,” he said.

“Suffolk County Council is willing to consider ideas emerging from those schools which address the problems, not least the gap in student attainment levels associated with a three-tier system.

“We acknowledge that this may result in a step-by-step move to a two-tier system as and when opportunities and resources allow.

“Three-tier schools may co-exist with two-tier schools in the interim which will offer parents a choice of systems in line with current Government policy.”

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