Primary school to join Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust as two tier decision looms

Exterior of Tollgate Primary School, Bury St Edmunds.
Exterior of Tollgate Primary School, Bury St Edmunds.
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A primary school which has been in special measures for more than a year is to join the break away Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust– as councillors prepare to rubber stamp a move to two-tier education in the town.

Tollgate Primary has been granted orders from the Department for Education to become a 4-9 academy within the all-through trust, which is headed by the ‘outstanding’ rated County Upper School.

Meanwhile, Howard Middle is discussing plans with the DfE to become part of the trust, which also includes Barrow Primary, Westley and Horringer Court Middle Schools.

It comes as Suffolk County Council’s cabinet prepares to approve a £23 million move to two-tier schooling on Tuesday, which under the authority’s proposals would see Hardwick, St James, St Louis Catholic and Howard Middle Schools close in 2016.

In a statement, the governing bodies at Tollgate and Howard said the all-through system ‘better meets the need of both our schools and our town’ and they have the ‘necessary parental and wider community support’.

It would address concerns by parents on the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates that their children would have difficulty accessing County Upper under the move to two-tier.

John George, chairman at Tollgate, which was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last January, said: “It’s more about creating a through school to County. We feel that County would give us the expertise we need to make us a better school.”

Sue George, chairman at Howard Middle, said: “The benefit of joining the trust would be that we will be fulfilling our parents’ wishes – they expect to get their children into an outstanding school. It’s literally two minutes down the road and a natural progression.”

Dr Richard Fletcher, chairman of the trust, said they would work with the council to ‘ensure the best provision we can’. He urged the cabinet to ‘reflect on whether a move to two-tier is really the best option’.

Cllr David Nettleton said it would be ‘good’ if Tollgate and Howard Middle joined the Trust as County Upper was built to serve the two estates.

A council spokesman said they were reviewing a plan, submitted by governors at Tollgate which addresses how they plan to tackle the school’s ‘slow progress’. He said: “We are now reviewing this and will make a judgement about the next steps this week.”