READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of November 15

The scaffolding, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, which has prompted concerns from parents over pupil safety
The scaffolding, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, which has prompted concerns from parents over pupil safety

A further selection of letters fromn the Bury Free Press of Friday, Novmber 15.

GREENE KING OR COUNCIL SHOULD PAY FRO CROSSING PATROL

RE your article ‘Concerns for pupils’ safety’ (Bury Free Press, November 1). I am a registered childminder and take children to Feoffment school at 8.40am and collect them at 3.10pm. In your article, it states that Greene King is working to expedite the repair as quickly as possible but the scaffolding has been in place since the beginning of September – it was there when school restarted after the summer break which is two months now with no consideration for children’s safety and no apparent sign of a quick repair being done.

Also, this week the bottom of Churchgate Street has been closed so traffic is being diverted toward town, via Westgate Street, then the wrong way up Bridewell Lane and therefore has increased the amount of traffic in this small stretch of Westgate Street making it even more dangerous to cross the road, and we are having to be carefull of speeding cars coming up the road in front of the school entrance with no consideration for the children.

If Greene King cannot get this wall repaired immediately why can’t they, or the local authority, arrange for someone to help us all cross this part of the road form 8.30-9am and 3-3.30pm each day, a council road worker actually did help me and other parents, one afternoon last week, by stopping the traffic for us. We had issues with the lack of people who actually stop for us on the zebra crossing but now we have nothing.

-- Chris Fitzjohn, via email

ATS HAS QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

As a parent of two young children, I have attended three public meetings to date ref the SOR proposals for Bury. I have read the literature provided and have listened to parents and heads in the Bury Schools Partnership (BSP) and am in agreement with them that a two-tier system is the best option for the children of Bury St Edmunds. What I, like many others see and are becoming angry about is the apparent inability of the Academy Trust Schools (ATS) to accept that however much they might believe in their thee-tier, ‘all-through’ system, at the end of the day it is only a completely all-through system for 30 pupils. The rest join the trust in Year 5 and Year 9. This works now as all pupils in Bury change schools at the same time.

If the SOR proposals are adopted for Bury, the ATS has to accept that it will have to make some changes in order for its schools to be sustainable and successful without detriment to the education of the rest of the towns children.

The ATS should be as much part of the consultation as all the other schools, after all, the SOR proposals rely on the Academy Trust taking 216 of Bury’s Year 7-11 pupils and the Academy Trust will be relying on the Partnership primary schools to educate 186 children to at least the end of Year 4. I need to know, as a parent, how ATS thinks the preservation of its current system justifies this switching between schools, tier systems etc at various points along our children’s education. The BSP and SOR have answered my questions as fully and as realistically as they can, however the ATS governors I have spoken to have not.

I have several questions which need answering, as follows:

n How is the ATS going to fill its 216 places in Year 5 at its middle schools with only 30 pupils per year from its one trust primary School?

n How is it going to fill the 260 places per year inYears 9-11 at County Upper when the maximum number of Year 8s in its trust schools will be 216? It would appear that it will have to direct some valuable school funding and staff time (ultimately taxpayers’ money) into ‘luring’ pupils away from primaries and upper schools which have been expanded and staffed using , again, taxpayers’ money. These moral and financial implications of how ATS will fill its schools must surely be questioned?.

Come on ATS – get real – we need answers not leaflets, we want to hear how ATS would adapt in the future, not about how much you want to stay in the present.

-- Yvonne Galloway, Howard Estate, Bury St Edmunds

HOWARD COULD BE FOUR-13 SCHOOL

Keeping a few back copies of the Bury Free Press came in useful after reading the claim by Lisa Chambers (Letters, November 8) that the article about schools reorganisation in Bury (published the previous week) implied that there would be a shortfall in secondary school places in Bury overall following reorganisation. No, it didn’t. The article simply pointed out that there will be an imbalance between the pyramids of the Bury Partnership and the Bury Academy Trust.

The Partnership model offers 535 primary places but only 340 secondary places – a shortfall of 195 – whereas the Academy Trust has only 30 primary places, widening out to 260 places at County Upper – a surplus of 230. Only the 30 pupils who start their school life each year at Barrow Primary aged four are certain of their future educational path through to leaving County Upper at 18. For everyone else, there are various levels of uncertainty. At the schools review consultation evenings the same two questions are being asked, and left unanswered: Which school or schools will my child or children go to (and) how will they get there?

The Academy Trust offers 100 places at Horringer Court and 116 places at Westley for pupils aged nine to 13 before transfer to County Upper. This guarantee can be offered because this still leaves a surplus of 44 places. All I was suggesting in the November 1 article was that the Howard campus in Beard Road – where the primary intake will be 45 – becomes a four-13 school. This would allow maximum parental choice for parents living in this part of Bury. Those who desire two-tier education could apply for transfer to King Edward’s at 11, leaving those who prefer to transfer to County Upper at the Howard school until they reach 13 years old.

Ideally, talks between education officials and the schools involved – and I would include Tollgate Primary here – would start in January to negotiate an agreement which stacks up numerically and focuses on parental choice rather than the dogmatic attitude of party politicians.

-- Cllr David Nettleton, County councillor, Tower Division

CHILDREN MUST NOT BECOME PAWNS

I have been taking time to read Suffolk County Council’s original School Organisation Review Report of the Policy Development Panel (December 2006). I have come across the following which has particular resonance to the Howard Estate and the desire of Howard residents to see Howard Middle School and its two feeder primaries (Tollgate and Howard) become part of the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust. When asked (in Annex 5, Section 1) by the Policy Development Panel to clarify the position on the fact that ‘children from hard pressed backgrounds appear to be doing well in the secondary phase within three-tier schools’, the council’s own research findings state: “Lower attaining children from ‘hard pressed’ neighbourhoods are doing better within the three-tier system. Pupils with low prior attainment make more progress in the three-tier system than similar pupils in two-tier schools.”

The Howard Estate falls into the ‘hard-pressed neighbourhood’ category. Why, then, is Suffolk County Council seeking to force these children into a two-tier system when the all-through Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust would suit them better and is waiting to welcome them with open arms?

The council’s own findings confirm that these children will be disadvantaged still further by a change to two-tier in Bury. These children must not be allowed to become pawns in this political project.

-- S White, Bury St Edmunds

LET’S GO FOR ALL THROUGH

Within the arguments being put forward for major disruption to education in Bury, it is suggested that our schools cannot remain an island of three-tier in a county of two-tier education. Why not? Like all parents I want the schools to work for my children, not just to conform with other regions. As a governor of St Felix Middle School in Newmarket, I saw the years of disruption caused by the closing of a brilliant school, so it saddens me to think SCC is plodding along with the same old arguments. Fortunately, they did however approve the formation of the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust and, given the trust’s outstanding results, clearly the trust shows a better option. Now SCC has to ensure that choice and coordinated transfer points between all schools in the trust, Catholic and Bury Partnership schools remain. And that means either leaving Bury three-tier or providing for other all-through pyramids based on the trust model.

SCC is happy to hold up Haverhill schools as a success story. But now, just four years on from their allegedly successful SOR change to two-tier, they are opting for all-through pyramids akin to the Bury Academy Trust model! Let’s cut out the four years of disruption and move all of Bury’s schools straight to cooperative all-through pyramids.

-- John Bramwell, Ousden

ANSWER IS SIMPLE – JOIN THE TRUST

Marie Bennett says that the admissions policy of County Upper School is now to the detriment of the children on the Howard and Mildenhall Estates (Letters, 8 November). In developing their Academy Trust, it seems a perfectly rational move for County Upper to make the changes to admissions of which Mrs Bennett complains. The rational response that needs to come from Mrs Bennett is to ask if there is anything Howard Primary can do to reinstate the route to the town’s best performing school that the parents on the two estates so clearly want to preserve?

The answer seems clear. In this ‘schools’ led process” why don’t Howard Primary together with Tollgate Primary and Howard Middle simply ask to join the Academy Trust?

-- J H Lee, Bury St Edmunds