READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of November 29

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A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, November 29.

TIME TO HONOUR SIR PETER

Sir Peter Hall was born at 4 Avenue Approach, in Bury St Edmunds, in 1930 on November 22 and so celebrates 60 years as a theatre and opera director. Isn’t it time that the local council honoured one of its most famous citizens?

-- David Dawson, via email

‘HANDS-ON BETTER FOR MANY PUPILS

I was struck by your report on a new vocational school for Bury (Bury Free Press, November 22). One of the most damaging pieces of political interference in education (and there are sadly many to choose from) was Tony Blair’s policy of encouraging ever-increasing numbers of young people into university. The central problem with this policy was that it elevated academic learning above all other styles of learning. Anyone who thinks that all young people are equally engaged by academic learning has clearly not been near a classroom recently.

Lord Baker (Secretary of State for Education in the 1980s), in his recently published vision for transforming 14-18 education (which, incidentally, embraces a middle tier), argues for the importance of ‘learning by doing’.

I have seen this first hand with a young student who was completely flummoxed by fractions as taught (academically) in the classroom but grasped them almost instinctively when working (vocationally) in the machine shop.

For the many children coming up through the school system in Bury, who like that young student, need a more hands-on approach to learning, the announcement that the Academy Trust has plans to open a new-style technical college must be very welcome. There is nothing innately superior about academic learning over vocational. That our town’s best-performing school wants to develop vocational provision can only be good news, and will help to remove the irrational stigma that seems to attach itself to vocational learning.

What is not welcome, however, is that Suffolk County Council, having been found by Ofsted to be complacent over school improvement, is now seen to be careless as well. Not only did the local authority allow the Academy Trust to form in 2011, it is highly unlikely that the local authority was ignorant of these plans for a new technical learning centre.

Allowing SOR plans to go to consultation that are, by ignoring the Academy Trust, damagingly unbalanced in terms of the numbers of two-tier primary and secondary places, seems pretty careless. We now see they are also consulting on building a new school at Moreton Hall that doesn’t appear to be needed. Is that just more carelessness, or are we getting near to negligence?

-- Paul Oldman, Bury St Edmunds

CHANGES WILL WREAK HAVOC

I have a lot of time for Mr Barton and while I have no personal experience of his school I hear good things about it and he seems active and to the fore.

In last week’s paper there was an article on King Edward’s School changing its catchment to accommodate children from the Howard schools. I’m at a loss as to why this should be necessary. Surely those children should be able to go to County Upper as they always have? If King Edward’s takes them instead, doesn’t this pass the worry on to other communities and families who will not be able to access King Edward’s?

Following the educational debate that rages each week I’m beginning to wonder whether Mr Barton and his colleagues have had their hand forced by the local authority. It seems that the numbers don’t add up and that children will be displaced. Things could get very messy in Bury and this will have a negative impact on children. If a plan of this scale and cost needs fundamental tweaking midway through a consultation process it does make you wonder how sound the plan is as a whole.

I think it’s time we people of Bury got behind our headteachers to help them resist the pressure from the local authority to change. Bury works well and these costly changes will wreak havoc on our town and do real damage to our children’s futures. We need to go to our heads and the governing bodies at each school and tell them clearly that we want them to resist this half-baked plan. We need to give them the strength to stand up to the council.

-- Sarah King, Bury St Edmunds

OFSTED MUST BE ON ITS WAY

In looking at the damning report by Ofsted on Suffolk County Council’s complacency over school improvement, the headteacher of King Edward VI School says: “Some outside education may wonder why we take Ofsted quite so seriously. After all, most inspectors fled the classroom many years ago.” (Bury Free Press, November 15). He invites us to conclude that teachers who are able to teach to an outstanding level with an Ofsted inspector in the room are akin to ‘performing seals’.

I wondered what might be motivating Mr Barton to take such a dim view of Ofsted. Then I realised that King Edward VI School was last inspected by Ofsted in February 2009. Ofsted must be on its way any day now. With his school falling this year some 17% behind County Upper School at GCSE – and that’s with a cohort of children who are less deprived than those attending County Upper – do you think Mr Barton is softening us up for a ‘difficult’ Ofsted judgement?

-- J H Lee, Bury St Edmunds

SAXHAM WOULD BE BETTER SITE

Reading your headline story about waste transfer station proposals for the area (Bury Free Press, November 22), maybe we are supposed to be encouraged that councillors acknowledge that their own council colleagues and officers are now listening at last? Is this a first?

What Paul Derrick’s story does not mention is that the initial concern about proposals for Rougham Hill was reportedly expressed by Hopkins Homes, who stated, some weeks ago, that an alternative site had been identified already, where the owners (of the site) were happy for it to be considered – Hollow Road Farm, off Compiegne Way. That will simply relocate the problem, including the smell, to another part of town. It is two fields away from Great Barton and another planned 1,200-home new development – and both are in the track of the prevailing wind.

The proposed transfer station is surely to cater for the ‘unified’ St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath combined capacity, shared services, vehicle fleets etc. So geographically (and if the A14 is critical for bulk feed into the burner at Great Blakenham), then somewhere like the non-residential, industrial brownfield site near the Saxham Business Park would make more sense. The operation would be accessible to both the borough and Forest Heath waste streams and have equal road miles to Great Blakenham – or indeed the biomass power station at Thetford. Moreover, large bulk could be moved by rail even – as the railway line runs effectively between the two sites. Decisions about alternatives being made against tight deadlines probably needs to be read against the concerns being expressed by developers – as it seems that in Bury, what developers ask for, they usually get.

-- Adrian Graves, Great Barton

SHOPS: CLOSE YOUR DOORS TO SAVE HEAT

To all shop owners – please can you act responsibly and shut your outside doors during the cold weather. Heat your shop not the street outside. Customers will still come in.

-- V Cole, Bury St Edmunds