Head cheered for two tier schools broadside

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THE head of Ixworth Middle School was cheered by parents when she gave two-tier schooling a verbal broadside.

At a packed public meeting in the school hall, Glenice Francis stressed she had never supported the plan that would close middle schools and see children go straight from primary schools to Thurston Community College, which would have 2,000 pupils on its current campus and a new one created at Beyton Middle School.

Mrs Francis told the meeting: “I am not in support of 2,000-pupil schools, not in support of two tier schools, not in support of single tier secondary education.

“I was sad to learn that a local authority education officer, quite high up, said there’s bound to be ‘collateral damage’ — these are your children!”

She told the often angry meeting called by Suffolk County Council as part of its public consultation: “I intend to stay here if it goes two-tier. I do think the children and parents need a safe pair of hands.”

The county’s assistant director of learning Sally Rundell condemned anyone using the phrase ‘collateral damage’ and said parents’ views on it would be passed on.

A mother of three with teaching assistant qualifications felt two-tier was wrong in rural areas where children go to small primary schools. She felt middle schools acting as a transition stage to large secondary schools was particularly important for children with special needs.

The county’s primary education advisor Angela Thompson said: “Children with special needs are identified at early stages as needing additional support and arrangements will be made.”

Many parents questioned assurances from county officials and Thurston College’s principal that children in two tier schools do better, some saying it contradicted the county’s own data. Mrs Rundell said the parents were referring to old information where the county was using 2010 data, including experience in areas that have already gone two-tier.

Afterwards, West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock told Mrs Francis: “The speech you gave earlier was very moving, very powerful and very brave.”