Suffolk: Heated meeting on educational standards in county

A lively debate at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds las tweek during the public meeting called by the Suf

A lively debate at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds las tweek during the public meeting called by the Suffolk Action for Truth on the Schools Organisation Review - Credit: Andy Abbott

ANGRY parents have demanded education chiefs halt the closure of middle schools.

During furious scenes at a heated meeting called by the Suffolk Action for Truth on SOR (SATS) group Suffolk County Council’s education top brass faced the wrath of parents and teachers determined the best way forward for their children is to keep the three-tier system.

Speaking during the meeting at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds, Bernadine Miller, a spokeswoman for SATS, claimed middle schools in the county have “consistently exceeded” the attainment average at Key Stage Two but Suffolk County Council - which is driving the move to two-tier - countered this with information showing they are not doing well enough.

Council cabinet members will make a decision today on whether to close Combs Middle School in Stowmarket, Needham Market Middle School, Stowmarket Middle School and Bacton Middle School.

During a question and answer session, parent Ruth Allen asked the county council: “Is there anyway you would go back or is it just playing on until it’s all done and possibly in 15 years time the children’s education will start to come back up?”

She added, to roars of support from the audience: “Can you stop the ball rolling? Can you stop this continuing?”

But Graham Newman, cabinet member for education and young people, said: “I’m not making yes or no answers here.”

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And Sally Rundell, assistant director for learning and improvement, said: “It’s important we look at what is happening for our children. I need to reflect to you we are accountable to the Department for Education. The Department for Education has identified every middle school in Suffolk - every middle school in Suffolk - as a school of concern because of our rate of progress.”

A member of the audience shouted “rubbish”. Mrs Rundell added: “We have to be clear with you, the Department for Education asked the authority these questions about progress in schools of concern.”

Mrs Miller suggested the county council should let the school adjudicator make the final decision over whether to go to two-tier: “We are categorically sure they would not make that decision. That they would say - just as the schools’ adjudicator took regards to St Louis Middle in Bury St Edmunds - this is a wrong decision.”

After the meeting Colin Green, a parent and governor, said: “They will pass a decision to stop the middle schools but we won’t stop until the last door is closed.”

Graham White, secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk, said: “The issue is not two-tier versus three-tier, it’s about what is the best system. The three-tier system does work well. It’s well-established. We have got outstanding staff - they do not need to be made redundant.

“We have got a lot of experienced staff who have lost their jobs. That cannot be good for pupils in Suffolk.”

In Bury public consultation on the School Organisation Review is due to take place later this year.

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