Middle school could become a secondary

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A MIDDLE school in Bury St Edmunds could be converted into a secondary school under plans to reorganise the town’s schools.

Much uncertainty has followed the unanimous decision by headteachers in May last year to adopt two-tier models of education across all schools in Bury, with details yet to be drawn up by Suffolk County Council.

Last Friday, David Ruffley, MP for Bury, chaired a meeting held to give headteachers and school governors a forum to discuss their concerns.

He said among the proposals was the option of converting St James’ Middle School, in Vinefields, into a secondary school.

But other considerations include extending the town’s upper schools or building a brand new school.

“We won’t necessarily build extra classrooms at existing upper schools,” he said.

Cllr Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for schools, said St James’ was an affordable short-term solution but not be a long-term one because of issues it posed with access into the town and with future growth.

He said if extended, which would cost around £6 million, it would be capable of accommodating the present demand for 600 pupils, but not the further capacity needed to support housing developments planned for the town during the next decade.

“It’s a workable solution but it’s not an enduring solution really,” he said, adding that St James’ was the only middle school being considered.

Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School, said it was made clear at the meeting that the move to two-tier was ‘non-negotiable’.

There was a ‘strong feeling’ that Bury’s move from three-tier to two-tier education was complex but that it had to be done properly for the sake of pupils and parents, he said.

“There will need to be another secondary school but that’s not necessarily going to be St James’, other options are being looked into,” he added.

Cllr Newman said: “We’re not ready to go to public consultation on this because we don’t have firm plans on what can be achieved within the time frame and within the budget.”