schools switch causing ‘chaos’

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A COLLEGE principal, who helped spearhead a switch to two tier schooling, has hit out at the ‘chaotic situation’ now surrounding the move.

Helen Wilson, of Thurston Community College, says uncertainty over a proposed Free School and potential changes to school transport are undermining the 2014 transition.

As a result, she is now unable to offer jobs to 50 members of staff from the three soon-to-be-axed middle schools in the Thurston area as previously planned.

She said: “The whole situation has become chaotic.”

Ms Wilson planned to ring fence vacancies at the college on forward contracts for staff at Beyton, Blackbourne and Ixworth middle schools.

Without the Free School, in Ixworth, she calculated needing 30 teachers and 20 associate staff to meet the college’s 720 extra pupils.

However, with the Free School she estimates taking on 180 additional pupils in 2016 and would need just eight permanent teachers and five associate staff.

She said: “I can’t even offer those eight because I don’t know where I’m going to have gaps. I need to be able get on and offer those middle school staff jobs as soon as possible. How on earth are we supposed to look after children’s education because our middle school staff will leave? Those middle school kids are going to have a really poor deal because of the uncertainty of the Free School. We’re not against the Free School. All I’m saying is let it open in a couple of years time. Give us a couple of years to get reorganised.”

Meanwhile, a potential change to Suffolk County Council’s transport policy, which would see pupil’s receive free transport to their nearest school, could also affect college numbers.

Ms Wilson said: “Parents will take the free option and there would almost be like a captive audience for that Free School, which will fill up quickly.”

She is due to meet officers from the authority and Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for education, next week to discuss her concerns.

Cllr Newman said: “Our commitments will be to minimise the disturbance to any child’s education, to maintain job security for as many teachers as possible and to afford as much choice as we possibly can for parents.”