'Super-school' given go-ahead

PLANS for a new 1,900 student “super school” in Felixstowe have been given the go-ahead by Suffolk County Council, it was announced today.

PLANS for a new 1,800 student “super school” in Felixstowe have been given the go-ahead by Suffolk County Council, it was announced today.

Councillors voted in favour of the new �30million-plus school project to open in the town in September 2013 on the current site of Orwell High School on Maidstone Road, Walton at their cabinet meeting yesterday.

It will mean the closure of Deben and Orwell High schools and in their place the creation of a new single high school for 11 to 19s.

Headteachers of both Orwell and Deben high schools welcomed the news seeing the project as an exciting step for students in the town.

Orwell High head Peter Tomkins said it was the best option for the future of education in Felixstowe.

“Obviously I am very pleased it is the decision we wanted and is the best thing for education for students in Felixstowe,” he said. “It is important we make sure as it develops in the future students are at the heart of the project.

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“As a school we welcome the decision as being in the best interests of Felixstowe and the students of Felixstowe.”

Rob Cawley, head at Deben High added: “One of the central arguments for Felixstowe, we wanted one school and we are really pleased that the decision at the decision of the Cabinet.

“It is an exciting project when you get �30million to build something brand new it is really exciting.”

He said despite having favoured a brand new site he saw the location of the future school as a second priority.

“Myself and the governing body of the school were big advocates for a brand new site starting afresh but it has not been possible, the site was really a second priority for us.

“Today's decision gives us a real chance to have something really exciting to raise aspirations and push forward education in Felixstowe.”

Cllr Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services said the Cabinet's recommendation was that a single school on the current Orwell site should be established.

She allayed fears that around 1,800 children would be educated in one building instead announcing plans for a campus with up to four buildings to cater for different faculties and subject areas.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Felixstowe community. We want to help all young people to achieve the very best they can.

“Combining the resources of the two existing schools in new exciting surroundings will help them to achieve this. Significant funding through the Building Schools for the Future programme enables us to provide young people and the wider community with high quality buildings and facilities,” Cllr O'Brien added.

During the consultation period, which involved 11 meetings held at primary schools in the area, 656 responses were received with 350 favouring a single school.

Some parents had expressed concern the new school would be too large and feared it could affect students' learning.

But Cllr Graham Newman portfolio holder for adult and community services, who is also a governor of Orwell High School, said concerns about the size of the school having a negative impact on educational achievement, was unfounded.

He said: “To have it all on one site will be of tremendous benefit.”

The next step in the development of the project will involve a competition notice inviting interested parties to put forward their proposals for setting up the “super school.”

At the end of the competition period, bids which meet the council's requirements will be published along with notices proposing the closure of the two existing schools and the opening of the new school.

A further six-week consultation period will be held allowing for the public to have their say on the bids received to run the new school.

Running a competition provides the opportunity for an educational trust or faith organisation to come forward with plans to operate the school. Should no bid come forward it is likely Suffolk County Council itself would have to bid.