Schools axe plans process a black hole

THE Lowestoft representative of the national teaching union has branded the process of axing middle schools a black hole, after questioning the validity of the latest papers consulting parents.

THE Lowestoft representative of the national teaching union has branded the process of axing middle schools a black hole, after questioning the validity of the latest papers consulting parents.

Today is the deadline for views to reach Suffolk County Council's reorganisation team regarding options for the future of every school in the town.

But Peter Byatt estimated that around 5,000 parents of pre-school children in Lowestoft had missed out on the vital review documents because they hadn't been sent directly to their homes.

The plans, which include the closure of all eight middle schools and the creation of a new primary school, were sent to the homes of parents with children of school age, but it is believed the information was only circulated to kindergartens and play groups for pre-school parents to peruse.

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Mr Byatt said the failure by the reorganisation team to send review documents directly was a denial of children's rights.

“They should have written to everyone who has had a baby now up to the age of four as they have a right to know what is going on. I've got a daughter who I didn't receive a document for, but I did get it for my son. When a child is born the birth is registered and information exists, so they cannot say they can't contact them

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“These are the future users of the school system and should be included in this consultation, there are thousands of children in our community who are affected.

“It is not enough for the information to have been circulated to playgroups. Perhaps the school reorganisation team and Suffolk County Council assume that the parents of pre-school children will know what is proposed, however there is no guarantee that these parents will be aware of the proposals and their consequences.”

Mr Byatt said he would be asking for full publication of the responses received from schools and the public and was looking for a pre-school parent to come forward who had not received papers, but was willing to challenge the county council on their methods.

“I certainly think a member of the public could challenge the LEA of the legality of the review by not consulting parents of pre-school. This is a black hole in the validity of the review,” he said.

At county level, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has prepared a 12-page report, which they have sent to Suffolk County Council challenging the authority over their decisions.

One of their main concerns was the huge implications of the new 14-19 curriculum entitlement, which will be introduced at the same time as the abolition of middle schools.

Other factors highlighted included the kind of courses being provided at the sixth form centre and the staffing protocol drawn up, which encourages head teachers and governing bodies to adopt a framework set up to manage the change from three-tier to two-tier schools. So far only nine of the 20 primary schools in Lowestoft have signed up and only one of the three high schools.

A spokesman for the county council said every effort was made to reach as many people as possible regarding the consultation.

He said: “It was decided that where names and addresses of parents were available then consultation booklets would be sent to their homes. As there was no central list of addresses of parents with children of pre-school age, it was felt the best approach was to send the consultation material to providers of early years services, asking them to make it available to their users. The methods of distribution were agreed with the local stakeholder forums, which included parents, school staff, governors as well as teacher unions.”

He added that all responses to the consultation, including the NUT's would be carefully considered.

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