Rubber stamp on school closures

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LEADING councillors are preparing to rubber stamp plans to axe three middle schools.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet is being asked to approve a switch to two tier education in the Thurston area including the closure of Beyton, Ixworth and Blackbourne Middle Schools.

The 17 primary schools would take on extra year groups as well as Thurston Community College, which would use the Beyton Middle site as a second campus.

The move follows the publication of statutory notices in February and a six-week representation period.

The authority received two objections and one supporting the proposals, which have been outlined in a cabinet report.

Fears were expressed that the plans would ‘not lead to better outcomes for children in the Thurston area as there are examples where three-tier schools do well’.

They raised concerns about the level of capital funding and facilities provided in the primary schools. The representations also highlighted the ‘quality of education’ at the college and felt the two sites approach ‘may put that at risk’.

In the report, Phil Whiffing, project lead for the School Organisation Review, said: “Even where children do relatively well in three tier parts of Suffolk at age 16 there is a significant body of evidence that progress and attainment should be better. In the Thurston area over one third of students do not get the five good GCSEs.”

He admitted that the funding was ‘significantly less than for other reorganisations’ but ‘headteachers are satisfied that the building work planned will provide classrooms where the curriculum can be effectively delivered’.

Mr Whiffing added that the college planned to offer the same curriculum on both sites and involve parents to determine which site their children will be based.

The cabinet meets on April 17 and, if approved, the middle schools would close in 2014.

n The parent-led Ixworth and Stanton Free School group plan to submit a bid at the end of the year to open a Free School on the site of Ixworth Middle in 2014.