Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust plans to open technical vocational style school in town

Academy Trust headteachers - Nick Templeton (Westley Middle), Alison Earl (Barrow Primary), Vicky Neale (County Upper) and Tania Johnson (Horringer Court Middle)
Academy Trust headteachers - Nick Templeton (Westley Middle), Alison Earl (Barrow Primary), Vicky Neale (County Upper) and Tania Johnson (Horringer Court Middle)

The Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust could open a technical vocational style school to provide practical courses for teenagers, it has been revealed.

The Trust says it would work with West Suffolk College and local businesses to aim to open the new school for 2016 - in the style of a University Technical College or Career College - which would take pupils from the age of 13.

Richard Fletcher, chairman of the Trust, said the move would provide opportunities for youngsters who are more vocationally minded as the national curriculum becomes ‘more academic’ and the school leaving rises to 18.

He said: “There’s never been a greater need for that vocational provision in education.”

Mr Fletcher revealed the plans during a public meeting at The Apex to discuss the Academy Trust’s all-through system, which includes County Upper School, Westley and Horringer Court Middles and Barrow Primary. It was held in response to Suffolk County Council’s consultation on plans to move the rest of the town to two tier education.

Mr Fletcher said: “We see no sense in putting our children through at least three years disruption and spending £22 million going to two tier as a staging post when re-organising to all-through can be done quickly, in one step, and at no significant cost.”

He noted the benefits of all-through include a ‘co-ordinated curriculum, a seamless transition and consistency in assessment and feedback’.

Questions were raised about pupils from Tollgate and Howard Primary getting into the Trust. Mr Fletcher said parents sbould make their feelings known to headteachers and governing bodies at those schools. He said the ‘most sensible approach’ would be to keep Howard Middle open but they could ‘add capacity in the middle or primary phase’.

Addressing the issue of serving the Howard Estate, he said: “We remain fully committed to these children and are fighting hard to keep them in our fold.”

On whether there are enough pupils to make the middle schools in the Trust viable, Nick Templeton, head at Westley, said: “We’re confident we will get the children we need in the middle schools.”

One parent questioned whether the model was similar to that of split site schools. Alison Earl, head at Barrow, said all-through is ‘more than just buildings, it’s about having a consistent approach.”