Students and staff have said their fond farewells to four middle schools in Mid Suffolk which closed their doors for the final time last week.
Having educated generations of children in the area, Stowmarket, Bacton, Combs and Needham Market Middle Schools have now closed for good as the county moves to two-tier schooling.
On Friday July 17, the few remaining children from three of the schools were given a happy send off with a day of games and activities. The final Stowmarket Middle School pupils left on Wednesday.
Bacton Middle held an ‘It’s a Knockout’ event for the remaining year six pupils and staff.
Head teacher Ian Belham said although everyone was sad to see the end of the school, they were trying to keep the day upbeat.
He said: “The important thing is that we focus on the children. It is very sad for the staff and the children but we have always maintained a positive attitude.”
The school, which opened as a modern school in 1963 and converted to a middle school in the mid 1970s, taught just over 400 children in the local area at a time.
“Our motto at the school is ‘Be the best you can be at Bacton’ - and I think we did just that.
“Whenever you speak to former pupils they always talk about middle school being the happiest time of the life.”
When Stowmarket Middle School hosted its farewell open day at the end of May, the hallways were packed with former pupils and well-wishers.
Youngsters have been taught on the site since 1862 when it was Stowmarket National Boys School before it was converted into a middle school in 1971.
Tim Odgers, former Head of School, said: “I have often wondered what makes the school different.
“It is difficult to pin down but I would say that it has always been a vibrant, enthusiastic and supportive place at the centre of Stowmarket community.”
Acting deputy head teacher Kate Kingsford-Bere said: “Stowmarket Middle is proud of its achievements, it is a good school with a committed staff and talented pupils - it is with great sadness that it is to close its doors to pupils for the final time at the end of July.
“We wish all its staff and pupils continued success in the future.”
Like the Stowmarket Middle School site, children have been educated on School Lane in Needham Market Middle for decades.
The first school was built there in 1875, bombed in the 1930s, rebuilt soon after and transformed into a modern middle school in 1973.
Head teacher Ian Kearns said: “Children have been educated at this location in Needham Market for literally hundreds of years.
“It has been around for a long, long time. “At the open evenings we held in May there were people who turned up here in their 80s, their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s - all who had been to this school.
“It was amazing, it really was.
“This school is the centre of the community and a huge community resource, we all hope it will be used for the good of Needham Market in the future.”
Mr Kearns said the school was very special.
“We got very good Ofsted reports and results but more importantly was the happiness of the children,” he said.
“The level of happiness of the pupils I have never seen anywhere else.
“Also, the quality of the staff here has been superb. Put that all together and you have a great school.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have worked here.”
Combs Middle School opened in 1971, the only of the four closing schools to be purpose built as a middle school.
Head teacher Mark Cresswell said the school punched above its weight in its creative arts and sports and thrived on being different.
He said: “Over the years the school has benefitted from very supportive parents and very good governing body.
“In May we staged some events for staff, former staff, students and former students and had well over 500 people come along.
“We had four or five head teachers present including the original head Mr Reed who started the school.
“He was the man who really started the school’s ethos - to be a bit different. “For the last three Ofsteds it has been rated ‘good’ and has always got good results.
“Our children always left here very confident, very ready for secondary education.
“I think that’s what the children are going to miss.
“We bring them through that adolescence period - I think that’s what middle schools do particularly well.”