Sad day as Lowestoft middle schools close for good
There will be mixed emotions across Waveney today as the joy that marks the end of the summer term is mixed with sadness – and a fond farewell to eight school and a host of long-serving staff.
As eight middle schools close their doors for good as part of Suffolk County Council's Schools Organisation Review (SOR), other primary and high schools are preparing to take in extra students.
The number of children attending at Southwold Primary School will double in September as it retains its Year 6 pupils and forms a partnership with Barnby and North Cove Primary School. And earlier this week the school, which currently has just 26 pupils, said farewell to its headteacher Susan Steven-Jones.
Mrs Steven-Jones, who started at the small school as a part-time supply teacher in 1987, spent her last day at the school on Wednesday. 'Times are changing,' said the outgoing head, who hopes to spend more time travelling and with her four-month-old grandson. 'The school is moving into collaboration and the whole system is being reorganised. I feel like now is the time to go because it will be a time of change for everyone.
'It's an exciting time for this school.'
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In Lowestoft, the head cook at Roman Hill Middle School bid goodbye to the school kitchen.
Heather Bellward worked at the middle school – one of the eight closing today – for 37 years and served up tens of thousands of dinners. Staff and pupils wished her all the best in her retirement.
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As reported in The Journal last week, today is the final day for Elm Tree, Foxborough, Gisleham, Harris, Kirkley, Lothingland in Lound, Pakefield and Roman Hill middle schools. All are closing under the SOR.
The county council says the move from a three to a two-tier system will improve standards of education.
Earlier this week, Graham Newman, the council's portfolio holder for children and schools said: 'There is clear evidence that young people who are educated in a two-tier education system achieve better than those educated in the three-tier system.
'We must make sure that barriers to young people achieving their full potential are removed so they can be successful in their adult life.'
But Peter Byatt, secretary of the Suffolk's National Teachers Union Lowestoft branch, claims the council has treated schools with 'disdain' throughout the review.
He said: 'It is not just the teaching staff who are affected – teaching assistants, office staff, catering staff, lunch-time supervisors, caretakers and cleaners have, I believe, have all been treated with disdain by Suffolk County Council.
'I have always believed that the middle schools in Suffolk offered a unique and valuable experience and they are being closed as an act of political expediency when one or two of them in Lowestoft experienced a period of lower results. Rather than deal with the social factors behind this and inject support where it was needed, the local education authority chose to close all middle schools.
'I know that there are a significant number of experienced teachers in our Middle Schools who have chosen to stay in post until they closed because they felt that the children deserved stability. I have the deepest admiration for these staff.'
• If you are at one of the schools closing today, send your comments and pictures to Lauren Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org