Campaign presents alternative plans

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CAMPAIGNERS have put forward their alternatives to a plan to close a top school as part of a shake-up of Catholic education.

At a meeting on Tuesday night, pupils, parents, teachers and former governors laid out what they see as the other options to the East Anglia Diocese’s proposals to shut the ‘outstanding’ rated St Louis Middle, in Bury St Edmunds, as part of an early switch to two tier schooling.

However, they voiced their frustration that no representative from the diocese attended the meeting, which was on the eve of the end of an official consultation.

Bernadine Miller and Sarah Truman, of the Stop Listen Rethink campaign group, said their preferred option, known as 1B, would be to retain St Louis with entry points at Years 5 and 7.

Another alternative outlined was a ‘through school’ with a joint governance and overarching head or principal of St Edmunds, St Louis and St Benedict’s campuses.

Mrs Truman noted the ‘risks to educational standards’ as a result of the diocese’s plans.

Mrs Miller called on the diocese to listen to all of the stakeholders and not to ‘squander what’s absolutely excellent’.

She said it was ‘outrageous’ that a diocese representative had not attended.

St Benedict’s pupils Andrew Gayfer and Claudia Snudden said the moves would ‘reduce the quality of teaching and extra curricular opportunities’ and they preferred option 1B.

St Louis parent Will Burrows said: “What we’ve got is an absolute jewel and we need it.”

Louise Allen, county secretary of the Suffolk NASUWT trade union, feared that ‘outstanding teachers and leadership at St Louis could be wiped out’.

St Louis head Anne Mansfield passed on apologies from diocese schools director Julie O’Connor, who could not attend as she had a ‘long standing engagement’.

She added that the cost of redundancies for St Louis staff could be £536,873.

The campaign group has handed over petitions with 832 signatures which includes nearly 300 collected by St Benedict’s pupils.

Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for schools at Suffolk County Council, said: “I came to the meeting to listen to the arguments and we will consider the responses we get and see where we go from there.”