Representatives from the Bury Schools Partnership have described plans to expand the All-Through Trust as a ‘disgraceful waste of public money’.
Last week the trust announced that a new County Upper School will be built at the site of Westley Middle School in Oliver Road and a new technical academy built at the County Upper school site in Beetons Way along with a 400-place middle phase campus. Westley Middle would remain where it is.
It comes just three years after Suffolk County Council decided to transform the county’s education system into a two-tier model as part of the Schools Organisational Review (SOR).
An open letter to Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, signed by teachers and chairs of governors from schools in the partnership, says they have three main points of concern.
They say deliberately creating so many surplus school places on top of the £36 million invested to refurbish 16 primary and secondary schools in the county as part of the SOR is a ‘woeful waste of public funds’
They disagree with the way the decision was made, saying it takes no account of the partnership’s mission to raise standards through minimising transitions between schools. They also say the decision undermines the work of local councillors and governors by allowing the decision to be made centrally, without the overview of the Regional Schools Commissioner. They fear there is a ‘significant risk’ good and outstanding primary schools in the area will close as a result of the decision.
Sue Herriott, chair of the Partnership, which is responsible for more than 3,000 children in the area, said: “The decision shows a lack of transparent consultation, represents a disgraceful waste of public money and demonstrates a wilful disregard for local democracy.”
She added: “As headteachers we have written to request an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Education to ask why ideological Whitehall policy-making is being allowed to undermine our efforts to raise standards for all children in the town and surrounding villages.”
Vicky Neale, headteacher at County Upper School, said: “The vast majority of the funding has been provided for us to create the technical academy which was approved on September 1, 2015, to which the Bury Schools Partnership didn’t object.
“As said in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech this is exactly the type of technical education they are wanting to roll out across the county and Bury will get that first.
“Suffolk County Council formed the All-Through Trust which opened in September 2011 before the review of secondary schools in Bury St Edmunds so the council and the Bury Schools Partnership took no account for what was already in place then.
“The Trust is one governing body so is not even two transitions.
“On surplus places, parents do have a choice and at the moment they are choosing in huge numbers to come to the Trust so we are trying to meet these demands.”