Switching to two-tier will cost £103 million by 2013

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THE total cost of the move to two-tier schooling in Suffolk has been laid bare.

Suffolk County Council has confirmed that the capital cost of the plans will be £103 million by the end of September 2013, which includes the closure of middle schools, costs of extensions to lower and upper schools and building new schools to handle increased capacity.

Union bosses have railed against the sums as ‘a waste of money’ arguing that there is ‘nothing wrong’ with the three-tier system.

In a breakdown of the figures, £37 million was spent in Lowestoft and £27 million in Haverhill. Another £16 million will go to Forest Heath, including a new primary in Red Lodge, as well as £12 million for Beccles, Bungay and Leiston, which will be completed this September.

The council will fork out £11 million for Sudbury and Great Cornard with the transition finalised by September 2013.

Beyond this period, £3.75 million of capital funding will go towards the reorganisation of schools in the Thurston area to be finished by 2014.

A budget allocation of £5.5 million has been agreed for Stowmarket and Stowupland, with two-tier implemented by September 2015. For Bury St Edmunds, which is likely to adopt the switch in 2016, £11 million would be spent to cover the number of new classrooms needed at primary and secondary.

The money is from the council’s anticipated schools’ capital allocation.

Graham White, secretary for the Suffolk division of the National Union of Teachers, said he was ‘absolutely horrified’ by the funding levels.

He said: “It’s a phenomenal waste of money.

“There’s nothing wrong with the existing three-tier system. That money could be used in a much better way.

“The impact on schools would be superb if it was invested in one to one tuition, helping those most needy and increasing the number of teaching assistants.”

Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for schools, defended the transition and cited a range of school performance indicators which have ‘shown for many years that Suffolk’s children do not do as well in the three-tier areas of the county as they do in the two tier’.

He added: “The two tier system has been endorsed by the Secretary of State, local MPs, the majority of head teachers and – in Thurston very recently – by the majority of those consulted on the issue. Conversion to two-tier will result in more pupils in our smaller primaries, schools which are widely anticipated to be threatened under any changes to funding the government may make under its forthcoming National Funding Formula.

“For these and a number of other reasons, the county council’s policy of fostering the completion of conversion to two tier is totally vindicated.”