Catholic school could expand with extra years

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A SECONDARY school in Bury St Edmunds is consulting over plans to take on two extra year groups.

St Benedict’s Catholic School wants to offer up to 60 places in Year 7 from September 2013 with priority given to children attending Catholic primaries in Haverhill, Newmarket and Sudbury.

The £1 million proposal, which will see pupils move into Year 8 the following year, would require four new classrooms in a standalone block on the Beeton’s Way site. The move follows requests for places by parents from the three areas which are moving to a two-tier education system.

It also comes in the wake of the School Adjudicator’s decision to reject a proposal to set up two tier Catholic schooling, in Bury – handing a reprieve to the threatened St Louis Middle School.

Parents are being asked for their views on the plan for St Benedict’s, which currently caters for Year 9 to Sixth Form.

In a letter to parents, head Hugh O’Neill said the consultation was not about the long-term future shape of Catholic education in Bury but providing for the children in the existing two- tier primary schools outside the town. Speaking to the Bury Free Press, he added: “It’s to see if there’s a strong feeling about whether they would prefer to stay in the two-tier system and come here. We feel that the majority of parents in those towns will be quite enthusiastic. We’ve got to balance out any misgivings the wider community may have about having two different systems within one.

“It looks like an ideal interim solution until we sort out what happens in Bury. The parents in Bury have the three tier system, which is what they campaigned for and those outside will have a two tier system.”

A series of meetings will be held to debate the issue including one at St Benedict’s, on Tuesday March 20, from 7pm to 8.30pm. Response forms have been sent to parents to be returned by March 23. All other interested parties can send their views by March 30 to St Benedict’s, Beetons Way, Bury or email consultation@st-benedicts.suffolk.sch.uk by March 30. If there is sufficient support, the governors would publish statutory notices after Easter giving people another six weeks to comment to Suffolk County Council.