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Council approves school plans

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 07:58 01 August 2010

SUFFOLK County Council on Thursday approved proposals for the future of schools in the Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth area.

The proposals, announced the previous week, were developed following twelve weeks of public consultation.

SUFFOLK County Council on Thursday approved proposals for the future of schools in the Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth area.

The proposals, announced the previous week, were developed following twelve weeks of public consultation. Cabinet members considered all of the evidence to ensure the recommendations would deliver the required outcomes: increased levels of achievement for children and young people, a school system which will meet the needs of young people now and ensure the county can make the most of the significant investment on offer.

The changes are the major part of the county's plan to abolish middle schools in favour of a two-tier system. It means children in the Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth area will remain at primary school to the age of 11, instead of moving at nine as at present, and will then transfer to high schools.

In the medium term Bungay primary will remain, with the high school using part of the middle school until major investment in preparing the high school for the change is carried out. After that the primary school is likely to move to the middle school site.

There would be a similar situation at Beccles where the Sir John Leman would need investment to provide for the larger numbers, but the county has resisted calls for a new high school at Halesworth, feeling numbers could not justify it. There, the middle school site it likely to be sold off, despite a plea from the town to retain it for much needed new community sports facilities.

Following Thursday's decision, public notices will be published in March. Notices will be displayed outside each of the affected schools, as well as in other public places, such as libraries. The information will also be available on the county council's website. People will then have six weeks in which to send in their comments before a final decision is taken in the summer.

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services said: "We need to raise levels of achievement in all Suffolk schools to help young people to compete in an increasingly tough employment market. These recommendations will help achieve this.

“Achievement within the three-tier system is consistently lower than in the two-tier system. Research independently verified in 2006 showed that the three-tier structure wasn't helping young people to reach their full potential. The most recent figures show the gap between the two systems still exists."

But she added: “It is important to stress that this is not a criticism of individual schools or teachers. The three-tier system makes it harder for all their efforts to have the maximum impact on young people. There is much good work taking place in our schools and we are committed to developing these qualities within the new structure. The changes will also help us to maximise benefits from funding opportunities, for example, the significant capital funding available to Suffolk over the next fifteen years through the Building Schools for the Future programme."

"We value the staff in our schools and will be investing in training and other development opportunities to ensure they are able to transfer into the new system. Current figures do not support claims that members of staff are leaving in higher numbers than in the years prior to the beginning of the review.”

These changes will be completed for September 2012. This planning period will help to ensure adequate preparation has taken place to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It will give staff the time to take up training or development opportunities to ensure they are equipped to make the change and to help young people improve their levels of achievement.

As part of the proposals, from 2011 children would remain in their primary schools until the age of 11, all middle schools in the areas will close at the end of the 2012 summer term and all children aged over 11 will attend a high school.

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