Schools Setback

CONTROVERSIAL plans to change Lowestoft's schools system hit a further setback this week as it was announced that the new Pakefield High School will not be built by next September.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to change Lowestoft's schools system hit a further setback this week as it was announced that the new Pakefield High School will not be built by next September.

Endangered newts have been found on the proposed site for the new 900 pupil high school and now Suffolk County Council has confirmed that it will not be ready for pupils until 2012.

The council is restructuring the county's education system, moving it from three to two tiers, and Lowestoft's middle schools will be among the first to close in September next year.

The news about the delays to the high school building, which follows the recent announcement that some middle school pupils and teachers will be moved up to Kirkley High School a year earlier than planned, has been criticised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who claim the council is lurching 'from crisis to crisis.'

However Graham Newman, the county council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said the discovery of great crested newts on the site, which is where Pakefield Middle School currently stands, has set back the plans for the project.

This means that pupils who were expecting to start in Year Nine at the newly-built school in September 2011 will have to go to one of the existing Lowestoft high schools instead.

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Year Seven and Eight pupils will use the existing Pakefield Middle School building until the first phase of the new high school is ready, and the year groups will then filter into the new school from 2012.

Mr Newman said: 'It's not good news, but it is totally unavoidable. In September 2011, there will not be enough space to take Year Nine pupils in the current Pakefield Middle School building so they will go to one of the existing high schools.

'We've been told that we should be able to get the building ready by September 2012. In the mean time, we have to satisfy all of our environmental obligations and an alternative home has to be found for the newts.

'It's a most unfortunate circumstance, but it doesn't affect our commitment to delivering our schools reorganisation programme.'

However Lowestoft NUT secretary Peter Byatt said that the delays to the Pakefield building project are adding to the stress already being felt by teachers and parents.

'We are becoming increasingly concerned at the way in which the schools organisation review continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, and the demoralising effect this is having on our members, and also on the local community.

'We have made the point several times that if the council had possessed the foresight to carry out their bio-diversity survey of the site at a much earlier stage, they would have identified this problem before it held up the whole process,' he said.

Pakefield High School headteacher Perry Linsley is supporting the decision not to take Year Nine pupils in 2011.

He said: 'With the delay to the building, it is only fair on the Year Nine pupils because if they came here they would have to be taught in portable classrooms and face a lot of upheaval.

Mr Linsley said: 'Everyone has worked very hard to make sure that youngsters attending Pakefield High School will be given every opportunity to develop their talents and have an enjoyable and rewarding education.'

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