Suffolk: School changes in Stowmarket and Stowupland set to go ahead

Graham Newman.

Graham Newman. - Credit: Archant

SUFFOLK county council’s cabinet is expected to give the final go-ahead for the abolition of middle schools in the Stowmarket area next week.

Proposals to convert that area from three to two-tier schools are expected to be given the final go-ahead by the cabinet despite fierce opposition.

The county has been pressing ahead with school reorganisation despite opposition from teachers and parents across Suffolk.

In the Stowmarket area, campaigners have been battling since 2007 to try to retain the three-tier system and the four middle schools.

However, the county’s cabinet decided in December to go ahead with the formal notice of closure – which heralded the start of a six-week consultation period.

During that period there have been 15 representations of interest sent to the county council, of which 10 were in support of the reorganisation and five were opposed to it.

If the cabinet decides to approve the proposal, there will be no admission to middle schools in the area from September 2014.

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The middle schools themselves – at Combs, Needham Market, Bacton and Stowmarket – would close in September 2015.

However, Stowmarket Middle School’s buildings would become an annexe to the town’s high school.

Schools in the Haverhill and Lowestoft areas have already been changed from three to two-tier – and the reorganisation is set to continue in all areas of the county that has had three-tier schools.

In the Ipswich area and part of mid Suffolk there have always been two-tier schools. In Felixstowe and Woodbridge the schools became two-tier in the 1970s and 1980s. Graham Newman, the cabinet member for education and young people, said: “Completing the School Organisation Review is an integral part of raising attainment levels across Suffolk. Every single primary school and high school in the Stowmarket and Stowupland area is anxious to complete the programme and indeed promoted the proposal to the county council.

“It is a fact that nationally pupils educated within a two-tier system outperform those educated within a three-tier system.

“You need only look at the most recent results in Haverhill and Lowestoft to see significant improvement in Key Stage Two results following reorganisation.”

Opposition Lib Dem education spokeswoman Penny Otten said she would continue to oppose the change.

She said: “The recent Ofsted reports have shown that the middle schools have improved and there are still questions about whether this really will improve education in the area.”

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