Concerns over preservation of West Suffolk middle schools’ histories

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Concerns have been raised about the lack of thought being given to preserving the history of West Suffolk schools.

It follows claims that items from Ixworth Middle School were ‘unceremoniously dumped in a skip’ after it was closed.

David Froud, himself a pupil at the school from 1958-64, said some villagers had managed to save ‘bits and pieces’ - trophies, school magazines, photos, even the head boys and girls’ ‘roll of honour’ - and efforts were now being made to collect further memorabilia with a view to creating a permanent display for the village.

“There were several bits and pieces rescued, bits that I would have thought if anybody threw them away they must be mad,” he said.

Fellow ex-pupil Paul Taylor said: “I was surprised and upset to hear that the history of the old school had been unceremoniously dumped in a skip.

“This, I believe, included photos, silver cups, awards, pupil records and their past achievements. In fact, the entire past glories of generations of pupils at the school.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said it did not have a policy in place for dealing with ‘school memorabilia’ and what happened to these items was the responsibility of schools’ governance.

Colin Green, a former Bacton Middle School governor, said he felt ‘absolutely disgusted’ at the thought of items of historical importance being ‘lost forever’.

When Bacton closed, he said they gave copies of the final year book to local history societies and contacted the Suffolk Record Office which took everything it deemed appropriate.

The school’s trophies were then given to their last recipients and any other items were offered to those at the school.

He said: “I don’t think there was that much importance put on any kind of record keeping for the middle schools.

“What we did was on our own volition, we had absolutely no help at all.”

With the middle schools in Bury St Edmunds set to close next year, the question is what should be done to preserve their histories?

Tim Page, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “If we are not careful memories that are valuable to many thousands of past students of these schools will be lost along with a valuable historical archive.

“I would hope that the Suffolk Records Office would be prepared to step in to save the records for posterity.”

Bridget Hanley, collections manager at Suffolk Record Office, said: “Suffolk Record Office can’t keep all the records we are offered because we will not have room for them; some selection will almost always be necessary.

“An idea of the history and activities of the organisation will help us decide what material is of permanent historical value. For schools the main types of records that we keep or sample are: log books, admission registers, managers’/governors’ minutes, receipts and payments account books, ‘Information for Parents’ (keep 1 year in 5), Ofsted reports, stock books/inventories, building plans, photographs of significant events in the school’s history and examples of activities, e.g. sports team, concerts, productions, papers relating to opening of school, major alterations to buildings and closure or proposed closure, magazines, PTA minutes and accounts and scrapbooks.”

“We are very happy to advise schools to ensure that the correct material is preserved for current and future generations of researchers,” she added.

Alex McWhirter, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s heritage officer, said Moyse’s Hall would welcome the opportunity for any closing school to inform it of their collections so it could assist ‘in preserving the social fabric of their onetime existence’.

He added: “Unfortunately this does not mean we can guarantee a house for any item within our own collection, but in the very least we will be able to document, where necessary, the existence and help in the relocation, where possible, of items.”

A spokeswoman for the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, said: “When we took over the former Ixworth Middle School from Suffolk County Council on August 1, 2014, the building was completely empty. If there had been any memorabilia there then we would not have sanctioned throwing it away.”