Governors hit out at Bury St Edmunds two-tier education consultation as call-in rejected

Howard Middle School, Beard Road, Bury St Edmunds. ENGANL00120130529150337
Howard Middle School, Beard Road, Bury St Edmunds. ENGANL00120130529150337
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Governors at a Bury St Edmunds school branded a council’s consultation on the move to two-tier education a ‘sham’ – as a bid to look again at the controversial scheme was rejected.

Representatives from Howard Middle hit out at Suffolk County Council during a meeting instigated by Labour councillors to scrutinisie the authority’s decision to overhaul schooling in the town in 2016.

However, council leaders defended the consultation as ‘thorough’.

During the meeting in Ipswich, Helen Stacy, parent governor at Howard Middle, which seeks to join the breakaway Bury Academy Trust, said: “I would argue that the consultation process was a sham and that the cabinet took its decision based on biased, erroneous and inadequate information.”

Sue George, chairman of governors at Howard Middle, added: “It seems to me that during the consultation period SCC wilfully ignored the inconvenient presence of an outstanding all-through academy in our part of town and were too willing to accept the views of the Bury Schools Partnership as representing the views of its member schools.”

They were joined by Samantha Grose, community governor at Tollgate Primary, who said the idea of a four-13 all-through school at Howard Middle was ‘dismissed out of hand’.

The future of Tollgate, which has been in special measures for more than a year, was one of the reasons behind Labour’s Cllr Sonia Barker’s call-in. It has been granted orders from the DfE to join the Academy Trust while the council also wants to replace the governors with an interim executive board. She also argued the consultation results were not weighted by effect - ‘contradicting’ DfE guidance. Cllr Barker said: “There’s a lack of clarity and people feel they haven’t been listened to.”

Papers to scrutiny by Phil Whiffing, assistant director of SOR, noted if the IEB at Tollgate was agreed, it would not stop the academy process. He said Bury was the ‘most thorough’ SOR consultation.

Cllr Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education, said the cabinet had ‘sufficient information’ to make its decision. On the weighting issue, she said the statutory guidelines referred to applied to the final decision-making process with the determination of statutory notices.

Cllr Sarah Stamp said the consultation was ‘very thorough’ and ‘the strong silent majority just want some certainty of where we go’.

In a vote to reject the call-in, six were in favour and six against with chairman Cllr Jane Storey using her casting vote to reject the call-in.