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Council accused of 'education mess'

PUBLISHED: 15:09 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 09:43 01 August 2010

A MAJOR teaching union in Suffolk last night attacked the county council's management of education in the county.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) claims the education authority has failed to carry out proper consultations into new decisions and disregarded the union's voice.

A MAJOR teaching union in Suffolk last night attacked the county council's management of education in the county.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) claims the education authority has failed to carry out proper consultations into new decisions and disregarded the union's voice.

Detailing a list of grievances, NUT Suffolk secretary Graham White said the county council had made a “complete and utter mess” of things.

“It is with regret that after many years of good relationships between unions and the authority, Suffolk County Council seems to be embarking on a policy of disregarding its stakeholders and in some cases not even consulting them before making decisions,” Mr White said.

“The unions have raised many issues with the authority about working together but the authority seems hell bent on pursuing their own agenda to the detriment of parents, pupils and staff. The teacher trade unions have sought to protect pupils from disruption and to improve education for all.”

At a time when Suffolk pupils are falling behind the national average at Key Stage Two, Mr White said the council should be “working with the unions and other bodies” to ensure the best outcomes for children in the county.

But SCC hit back at the claims, insisting they “want the best possible education for all young people” and pledging their continued commitment to the school organisation review (SOR).

Mr White said his concerns go right back to the start of the SOR in 2007, when the NUT was consulted but “the process was not as full and thorough as it should have been”.

He raised his doubts about the council's methods, sending letters home with pupils to alert parents to the consultation process to consider abolishing the three-tier structure in favour of the two-tier approach, threatening middle schools in north and west Suffolk.

“I know a number of parents never got those letters, they will have gone into the children's bags and never made it home,” said Mr White.

He criticised the “lack of consultation” into plans for a new high school in Lowestoft, with the authority deciding on the site at Pakefield Middle School without discussions with the school, parents, unions and other bodies.

Mr White slammed the “enormous amount of money” spent on the SOR which he now believes, due to the new Government's suspected squeeze on education spending is likely to be halted, meaning only two of the three phases will be completed.

He said the SOR had resulted in teachers in middle schools fearing for their jobs, unhappy at the idea they would be allocated another job and in the event they refused it, feared it would be seen as taking redundancy.

Mr White also criticised moves taken in Lowestoft, with a “lack of consultation regarding the sixth form proposals” in the town and “complete insensitivity in handling a number of issues in the Lowestoft area”.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said they had considered the views of all stakeholders, carrying out 12-week consultation periods for each SOR area. He said the decision made over the Pakefield Middle School campus had to consider factors such as size, available sites, access issues.

He said it represented a £12million investment in education in the town, part of a £60m plan to transform education for pupils there.

“We want to improve learning outcomes and opportunities for all young people in Suffolk and will continue to make decisions on that basis,” the spokesman said. “The independent Schools Adjudicator has, on two occasions scrutinised the council's SOR consultation process and confirmed both times that all necessary stakeholders were effectively consulted with.

“The county council will ensure young people are well supported throughout the transition from the three to two tier school system. In addition, the county council also has dedicated HR support on offer for staff in those schools in SOR areas as well as a wide range of training and development opportunities.”

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