Campaign wins reprieve for under-threat school

Parents and children delighted at St Louis Middle School reprieve.
Parents and children delighted at St Louis Middle School reprieve.
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A TOP school which was due to be axed in 2013 has been given a reprieve after an appeal by governors was upheld.

St Louis Catholic Middle School, in Bury St Edmunds, will remain open beyond the planned closure date after a Schools Adjudicator rejected proposals to discontinue it.

The independent officer upheld an appeal by the school’s governing body, which felt the Diocese of East Anglia’s move was ‘flawed and failed to take account of changing circumstances’.

The closure proposal, which also included expanding St Edmunds Primary and St Benedict’s schools as part of a switch to two-tier education, had been criticised by parents, pupils and teachers.

In her conclusions, adjudicator Janet Mokades said: “The consultation process leading up to this proposal was significantly flawed in its failure to seek and take sufficient account of the views of parents and pupils.

“I am not persuaded that driving through a mediocre solution against a backdrop of fundamental disagreement and dissension within the local Catholic community as well as some others in the wider community would lead to better outcomes for education in the area.

“A new and very different process of consultation and engagement is now needed. It will require a greater degree of objectivity and openness and greatly enhanced opportunities for parental engagement and input to balance the voices and interests of the schools.”

The development marks a victory for the Stop Listen Rethink campaign group which opposed the plans.

A spokeswoman said: “We are now eager to work together with the Diocese of East Anglia, the local authority, the schools, parishioners, pupils and fellow parents to plan for the future.

“Let us hope and pray that the New Year brings with it a clear unified vision for the future of our schools and an attitude of co-operation and shared values for the benefit of our children and those who come after them. Our special thanks must go to the staff at St Louis who have worked so hard and been so dignified despite such uncertainty over their futures. St Louis remains an Ofsted outstanding school with an outstanding reputation that has been held aloft as a beacon of excellence that must not be dimmed.”

Bernard Edge, of the governors of St Louis, said the adjudicator had given ‘clear guidance on the proper way to decide on the shape of Catholic education in West Suffolk’.

He added: “It must be a consensual decision that arises from the considered deliberations of all stakeholders. What follows next must be led by, but not be exclusive to, the governors of the schools.”

Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for schools for Suffolk County Council, said the authority would review the adjudicator’s report and work with the schools and diocese to identify the ‘degree of consensus’ asked for.

He added: “We remain committed to helping young people achieve the best they can.”