Parents reassured over high school

EDUCATION bosses have moved to reassure parents that a proposed new high school for south Lowestoft will provide the best possible future for their children.

EDUCATION bosses have moved to reassure parents that a proposed new high school for south Lowestoft will provide the best possible future for their children.

As pupils prepare to return to school, parents with children in year seven at Pakefield Middle School are among those who must select a first choice high school for their children during this autumn term.

But many parents are upset that their most convenient choice would be the proposed Pakefield High School - and it still does not have formal planning permission or guaranteed funding for any more than the first stage of building work.

Suffolk County Council wants to build the new school in three phases. The first would involve a new entrance off London Road, landscaping and new science, music and drama classrooms and an assembly hall being built next to the existing Pakefield Middle School so that it can reopen as a high school in September 2012.

But although it already has a new headteacher and board of governors, it still lacks planning consent - with Waveney district councillors delaying the process last week after opting to visit the site to consider concerns over traffic and complaints that the site is too small.

Maxine Gower, whose daughter will start Year Seven at Pakefield Middle this term, said: 'As a parent, it's hardly great to have to choose between a school which doesn't even have planning permission or the only other option, Kirkley High School, which is on special measures.

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'When it was first mentioned, I thought it would be fantastic and convenient to have a brand-new school there, but if this gets held up any more the building work won't start on time and then there'll be more disruption.

'It's a worrying time, and I don't really know what to do for the best.

'I don't want to turn down the chance for her to go there, but I don't want to sign up for a ficticious school either. Even the children feel like they're being strung along.'

Campaign group Enraged Residents Against School Expansion (Erase) has been fighting the plans for Pakefield High ever since they were first tabled.

Erase member Graham Jermyn said: 'The comments we've picked up from parents are that many really like the idea of having a high school in Pakefield but, when they find out that it's going to be built in phases, with no money guaranteed past the first step, then they often don't seem so keen.

'We all want a good school in south Lowestoft which is fit for the purpose of educating our children, but having to choose a school which doesn't even have planning permission isn't that.'

The new Pakefield High School has been created as part of the controversial school reorganisation, which has seen education in Lowestoft moving from three tiers to two.

All of the town's middle schools are poised to close next summer.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: 'As part of the pre-planning process we have listened to the concerns expressed by some residents about the design and access at Pakefield.

'Where appropriate, we have taken these views into account in the design, and therefore we are confident the application meets all necessary planning requirements.'

He added: 'It is always strongly recommended that parents and carers list three schools when applying for a school place.

'This means that, if it is not possible to offer a place at a parent/carer's first choice, the other options can be considered. This is no different for the new high school.'

Kathy Gosling, county councillor for Pakefield, said that most of the feedback she had received from local parents had been positive.

'I know that a lot of parents are really looking forward to the school being built, and we all hope it will be the flagship school which Suffolk County Council wants it to be. For people living in Pakefield it will be convenient, as children will easily be able to walk or cycle there.'

Last week, Waveney District Council development control committee put off giving its views on the school and asked for a site inspection to take place. It is hoped that this will take place before the next committee meeting on September 14.

A final decision on the proposals is expected to be taken by Suffolk County Council in the autumn.