Suffolk: Hopes are not high for middle schools

MORALE has been hit at middle schools which face closure under plans for two-tier education in their area.

Headteachers at Beyton and Blackbourne middles are not hopeful their schools can be saved as consultation gets underway on the future structure of schools in the Thurston area.

The consultation document, which has been produced by Suffolk County Council working with the Thurston Partnership of 17 primary schools and Thurston Community College, states the preferred structure is for two-tier education.

Under the plans Beyton, Ixworth and Blackbourne middles would close in 2014, the Beyton site could become a campus of the community college and there could be a free post-11 school at either the Blackbourne site in Stanton or the Ixworth site.

Across the three middle schools more than 170 staff would be affected by the closures.

Beyton and Ixworth submitted bids to become academies to stave off closure, but they were rejected and Blackbourne has not submitted an application and it is now unlikely one would be pursued.

Phil Vigrass, headteacher of Blackbourne middle, thought realistically, they had to accept their school would close.

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“You have to be realistic and I think it would be wrong to raise people’s hopes again. The academy was probably our last opportunity to save the school as a middle school.”

He said in total about 40 staff worked there. “At the moment morale has been hit. A school we believe can deliver very high standards looks as if it doesn’t have a future and I have already had teachers talking to me about how they are going to look for jobs in the future.”

He said they would do all they could to keep staff there as long as possible to minimise the disruption to students.

He said the school would definitely be pressing to stay as it is through the consultation process.

Andrew Nicholson, headteacher at Beyton middle, said: “I think what we have got to do is keep everybody energised and try and keep them positive about engaging with the consultation and have their say. Will the consultation make a blind bit of difference? I have no idea.”

While he thought it was inevitable Beyton would now close as an independent school, he believed the real debate in the consultation would be around what part a free school might play and how the college might have children on two sites.

He said there were 80 staff at Beyton, adding how everyone was a bit down about the plans. He said the real shock was not getting academy status, and then, in effect “we knew what was coming”.

To view the consultation document visit the Suffolk County Council website www.suffolk.gov.uk. The East Anglian Daily Times did not receive a comment from Ixworth Middle School by the time the paper went to press.