Chairman of governors of new Bury secondary school pledges to work with community

Visualisation of new secondary school at Moreton Hall - Image produced by Concertus Design and Property Consultants
Visualisation of new secondary school at Moreton Hall - Image produced by Concertus Design and Property Consultants
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The chairman of governors for a new secondary school at Moreton Hall in Bury St Edmunds has vowed to work with the community during its development.

Dr Tony Ashmore is leading the project to set up the academy, in Lady Miriam Way, which will be run by the National Education Trust (NET) and is due to open in September 2016 when most of the town moves to two-tier schooling.

Dr Tony Ashmore ANL-150402-113655001

Dr Tony Ashmore ANL-150402-113655001

He is now looking to establish a small governing body by Easter, which will be made up of local figures with expertise in finance, recruitment, leadership and the community as well as ‘one or two’ educational representatives provided by NET. They will then appoint a founder principal in September to start work in January and Dr Ashmore has been visiting schools around the town to build relationships.

In an interview with the Bury Free Press, the father of two, from Milton Keynes, said: “It’s a school for that community. We hope there’s some benefit with the trust coming in from outside because it brings some fresh thinking but it’s got to be done in the context here. There are existing schools, communities and institutions. We want to be part of that.”

The trust is ‘particularly keen’ on forming partnerships with feeder primary schools Abbots Green and Sebert Wood. It is also looking to work with West Suffolk College to explore possibilities around vocational skills.

A pre-planning consultation on the campus style design for the school has been launched this week by Suffolk County Council (see below).

Initially there will be three buildings including a leisure centre which will be available for community use. When it opens, the academy will cater for Years 7-9 with up to 360 student places in total.

Dr Ashmore said: “With those early years with relatively small numbers of pupils we’re going to have to focus on the core academic programme – core GCSEs.”

Staff will be appointed once a principal is recruited and Dr Ashmore estimates they will initially need around 15 teachers.

Will they be recruiting staff from the soon to be closed St Louis, St James, Hardwick and Howard middle schools?

“We’ve just got to get the best people we can. If some of those are the best, then great ,but there’s no sense of transfer of staff,” Dr Ashmore said.

“I would be disappointed if we didn’t find some of our teachers from the Bury area. Schools employ a lot of people who aren’t teachers and we will be recruiting locally.”

Dr Ashmore, a former registrar at the Royal Society of Chemistry, was part of a governing body to open a new secondary school in Milton Keynes 16 years ago. They appointed Roy Blatchford as the school’s first principal who went on to establish the NET in 2006 to support school improvement. It has about 50 ‘leading thinkers’ who are leaders in education from a variety of backgrounds offering the trust opinion and support. Among their number is Geoff Barton, head at King Edward VI School, which is part of the Bury Schools Partnership.

Then there are 20 associates – of which Dr Ashmore is one – who take on commission and paid work.

The trust funds itself through its school improvement work with ‘no core grant from Government’. It currently has five primary schools – three in Harlow, one in Warwickshire and the other in Reading. He said: “These are existing schools that were in difficulty. Three of them in Harlow only came onstream in January 2015. The other two are on the up. This is the first new school venture and the first opportunity we will have to start afresh.”

How do they make improvements at these schools?

“It’s putting in know how, it’s using our quite considerable network to try to attract really good people to bring in approaches that have worked elsewhere. What we don’t have, what I hope we never have is a blueprint, so when you walk into a National Education Trust school it isn’t like a Tesco. There’s an individuality and vibrancy about young people and schools that ought to be there.”

CONSULTATION:

Views are being sought on plans to build a new secondary school at Moreton Hall, in Bury St Edmunds.

Suffolk County Council has launched a pre-application consultation on plans for the 11-16 academy, which will be run by the National Education Trust.

Parents, residents and potential users have until Wednesday, March 4, to submit their views.

Suffolk County Council has ring-fenced £12 million for the first phase of the project.

There will be three buildings, including a leisure centre for community use.

Initial capacity will be for 600 students but the first phase infrastructure could accommodate 900 pupils.

Any future building phases will involve money being sought from developer contributions and central government funding.

Pupils in Year 7 to 9 would start in September 2016 with A-level and other post-16 provision being developed with other institutions from 2019.

Drop-in sessions have been organised where plans can be viewed and questions answered about the proposed development, these will be held at Abbots Green Primary School, Airfield Way, Bury, on Monday, February 9, 5.15- 7.30pm, and at Moreton Hall Community Centre, Symonds Road, Bury on Monday, February 23, 3-6pm.

Un-manned displays will also be available to view and comment on during normal opening hours, for the duration of the pre-planning consultation period, at Sebert Wood Primary School, Sebert Road, Bury, and at Suffolk County Council’s offices at West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury.

To view the plans and to comment online, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/consultations

A comment form will also be made available and can be returned to the Schools Infrastructure Team, Suffolk County Council, FREEPOST RTAC-HSKL-CSAY, Ipswich.