Schools’ academy plans put on hold

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THREE middle schools scheduled to convert to academy status this week have had their applications deferred as the Department for Education considers alternative proposals.

Stowmarket, Combs and Needham Market Middle schools were due to become academies on Tuesday, but have had their plans halted, bringing their futures into question.

The middle schools applied for academy status to secure their futures in light of Suffolk County Council plans to reorganise the school system to two-tier and abolish middle schools.

Representatives from the schools argued that the move would act as a ‘breathing gap’, giving the county time to secure funding to improve facilities at primary and high schools for a larger intake of students.

Sally Holmes, Stowmarket Middle School headteacher, said: “We are disappointed for parents.

“I feel that we did view ourselves as a solution. The whole point of this was to give parents stability for at least seven years.”

The Department for Education has now halted the plans and deferred the academy applications even though they had already been approved.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “Suffolk County Council has been informed by the Department for Education that approval of the funding agreements for Needham Market, Combs and Stowmarket middles has been deferred.”

Jim Neale, headteacher at Needham Market Middle School, said: “Suffolk has now got to submit proposals for two-tier to the Department for Education and ministers want to consider their proposals against ours.

“We are disappointed but still optimistic. We are still confident that academy status will go through.”

The headteachers were told that their plans had been deferred just four days before the change over was due.