Bury schools trust plans to open new multi-million pound campus

Vicky Neale, head at County Upper School
Vicky Neale, head at County Upper School

A schools trust in Bury St Edmunds is planning to open a new multi-million pound campus in the town to meet a demand for places.

The Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust has been given the go-ahead by the Department for Education (DfE) over its bid to open a 400-place middle phase campus, which would be a free school, in September 2017.

It says the campus is needed to cope with the demand for places at the trust when some middle schools including Howard Middle close in July as the majority of the town moves to two-tier education.

In the interim period before the new campus opens, the trust’s Tollgate campus will act as a temporary site to accommodate pupils currently in Years 6 and 7 at Howard Middle.

The trust was already given permission by the DfE to open a technical free school in Bury in 2017 to offer a more practical industry-inspired focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects for 13 to 18-year-olds.

Details on the locations of the new campus and school should be decided this month.

The new middle campus has entered the ‘pre-opening phase’ and the trust is conducting a public consultation on the plans.

The trust, which includes County Upper School, Horringer Court and Westley Middles as well as Tollgate and Barrow Primary Schools, was set up to offer parents an alternative to two-tier schooling.

Under the two-tier model, which is being overseen by the Bury Schools Partnership, an expanded Howard Primary would open on the Howard Middle site in September. Pupils could then transfer to King Edward VI School or the new Sybil Andrews Academy.

In a consultation letter, Dr Richard Fletcher, chairman of the trust board, said: “Those opposed to the closure of Howard Middle School wrote to the Prime Minister on 8th May 2015 urging his new government to listen to their case.

“The trust has sought a compromise position that does not prevent Suffolk County Council and the Bury Schools Partnership from implementing their plans for Howard Primary, but provides additional middle phase capacity in line with the wishes of many in the local community.

“The Department for Education has considered our application, via the Free School route, to open an additional 400-place middle phase campus, beginning with a Year 5 in September 2017.

“This is to be located in the area covered by the IP32 postcode on a site yet to be determined.

“In considering our application, the DfE has also approved a temporary site at our Tollgate Campus for 2016-2017, to accommodate pupils currently in Years 6 and 7 at Howard Middle School who wish to continue their education in the All-Through Trust.”

Vicky Neale, head at County Upper, said: “At the moment we’re hugely oversubscribed. Both Horringer Court and Westley are full. Westley has just agreed to take an extra 34 pupils into next year’s Year 5. It will be a school for those parents who want to get into the trust and currently can’t.”

The public consultation runs until June 1.

Visit www.burytrust.org