Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education suspects Suffolk is allowing left wing bureaucrats to drive their schools policy and that children will suffer.
Clare is a small town in Suffolk situated roughly midway between Haverhill and Sudbury, each of which is about 10 miles away. At present, Clare has an excellent Middle School and Technology College for 9 to 13 year-olds, which Suffolk County Council (SCC) wants to close. Changing from a 3 tier to a 2 tier system of primary and secondary schools is sensible, but closing Clare’s middle school instead of increasing the age-range it covers means that from the age of 11 upwards, children will be forced unnecessarily to travel perhaps 20 miles each day to and from secondary schools in either Haverhill or Sudbury.
Even if other considerations are ignored, at a time when we are supposedly faced with global warming and overcrowded roads, does it make sense to close a successful and popular local school? Common sense says not.
Fortunately, an active and well organised parents’ group is campaigning to keep the school open and expand it into an 11 to 16 secondary school. But the Conservative Council’s School Organisation Review is restrictive and anti-choice: "The preferred size for secondary schools should be in the range of 6 to 10 forms of entry, with an optimum size of 1200, excluding sixth form. The size of the sixth forms should be no less than 200 in number in 11 to 18 schools."
Councillors suggest that:
"An investment of around £600 million could be available
for Suffolk schools through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF)
programme’. But ‘the Government will not give us this money unless we have a clear vision for the future and detailed plans about how we will improve our schools."
Yet again, poisonous officials in the Department for Children Families
and Schools and their pathetic local colleagues are being allowed to
misuse taxpayers’ money to further their agenda at the expense of
children and families.
Who is controlling the system here? Are larger schools and fewer of
them automatically better? How will longer journeys to school for
11-year-olds improve their education? And why should bureaucrats decide that Clare Middle School should be closed, while Castle Manor
Business and Enterprise College in Haverhill where, last year, only 23%
of pupils achieved 5 or more grade A*-C GCSEs including English and maths, should be expanded?
Rosalind Turner, the council official in charge, proposes ‘a world
class education system for Suffolk’. This is typical New Labour
waffle. What exactly does ‘world class’ mean?
The parents and others fighting to keep a secondary school in Clare are
supported by their MP, Tim Yeo, but opposed by a massive, hostile
bureaucracy. A couple of weeks ago, they put their case to education minister Jim Knight. But instead of making a sensible decision to
over-rule SCC and back the parents, Jim Knight has bottled out and
passed the decision back to SCC.
Meanwhile the educational future of Clare children is in limbo and the parents are faced with more bureaucratic hurdles.
Is there anywhere in the country where Conservatives are prepared to do
what sensible people want instead of what Big Brother in Whitehall says
We are talking about children and their families here, not inanimate
bits of merchandise. What has happened to the traditional Conservative
aspirations – freedom within the law, genuine choice and common sense?
Or was it all summed up by Arthur in a Daily Telegraph blog last week?
Arthur was writing about taxation, but the point still stands: ‘We are
[now] spineless serfs under the heel of Socialism.’
Come on Conservatives! You have control in Suffolk and elsewhere. But where are your backbones?