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Parents ponder schools shake-up bid

PUBLISHED: 09:32 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 07:55 01 August 2010

MORE than 1,000 people had their say at meetings across the Beccles and Bungay area about the possible introduction of a two-tier school system which could see four middle schools being scrapped.

By DANHAYNES

dan.haynes@archant.co.uk

THE results of a three-month consultation with parents on the introduction of a two-tier school system and the closure of four middle schools in the Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth area have been published.

If given the go-ahead by Suffolk County Council's cabinet, pupils in years 3, 4 and 5 will transfer from middle to high school in September 2012.

In the Bungay and Halesworth area, the main issues raised by parents in the consultations related to the transition between the two systems.

They expressed concern that standards might fall in the middle schools, particularly for pupils currently in years 3 and 4, and that the middle schools might not be able to hang on to staff. The transfer of three year groups to Bungay High in September 2012 was also a concern.

However, the council has tried to lessen fears by drawing attention to the close collaboration between Bungay High and Bungay Middle, which includes a formal federation between the high school and Halesworth Middle.

The council's director for children and young people, Rosalind Turner, said: "Bungay High has already federated with Bungay Middle and Halesworth Middle - they are already planning for the change."

She said she was confident that "standards will rise", adding: "They are beginning to see they've got a stake in the future."

Meanwhile there was broad support from the seven first schools in the area, which would all stay open and expand to take in pupils up to year 6 rather than year four.

There were also concerns over how facilities for years 5 and 6 would compare with those currently available in middle schools. There was also some concern over children from very small schools being transferred to a large high school at age 11.

Parents were generally supportive of using Bungay Middle School as a sixth form for Bungay High School students, before funding is available to expand the high school. Under the preferred proposals, the high school would take in pupils from as young as year 7 rather than year 9.

Transport arrangements were questioned. However, the council pointed out that journeys to and from school would ultimately be reduced, as pupils would remain in their local village until the age of 11, when they would travel to high school, rather than needing transport to middle school at the age of nine.

A total of 159 responses were received from nine schools in the Bungay and Halesworth area.

If the cabinet agrees with the recommendations put forward next Thursday, statutory notices about the changes will be published, which will be followed by a six-week period when the public can have a final say. The cabinet will make its final decision in June.

For the results of the consultation in Beccles and Halesworth, see page 2.

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