New era for education across Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth

PUBLISHED: 10:29 07 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:25 07 September 2012

Beccles Free School opens at Carlton Colville.
Student Amy Debenham cuts the ribbon watched by headteacher John Lucas

Picture: James Bass

Beccles Free School opens at Carlton Colville. Student Amy Debenham cuts the ribbon watched by headteacher John Lucas Picture: James Bass

(C) James Bass 2012

A new era of education began across the Waveney Valley this week as this area of Suffolk became a two-tier system and the much maligned Beccles Free School finally opened its doors.

Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Worlingham saw the doors to their middle schools close for the final time when the children began their summer holidays.

But while some of the buildings welcomed the sound of pupils once again, the corridors of others remained silent.

The former middle schools in Beccles and Bungay have been taken on the by the towns’ high schools, while in Halesworth the former school is to be transformed to enjoy a new sporting life. However in Worlingham the buildings and field are sitting unused.

At the same time the controversial new Beccles Free School has welcomed pupils for the first time, as 68 children across years 7, 8 and 9 attended the temporary site in Carlton Colville yesterday.

The changes to the middle schools have come after the county council’s School Organisational Review. This has led to middle schools being closed across the county, with the changes finally arriving in Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth this summer.

In Beccles, the former middle school in Castle Hill has become a lower school for Sir John Leman High.

The site will hold 400 Year 7 and 8 pupils for the next two years, before being handed on to Beccles Free School in the summer of 2014.

In Bungay, the former middle school site in Hillside Road East has become a sixth form centre for Bunagy High School.

In Halesworth, sport is already taking place on the old school fields, in Harrisons Lane, with the site set to be turned into a sporting complex for the town.

Suffolk County Council has been given approval by schools minister Lord Hill to transfer the building to the Halesworth Campus Project, and it is hoped that in the future the whole area can be turned into a facility that offers sport, tourism, education and health services.

But while sport is continuing in Halesworth, the fields of Worlingham Middle School, in Garden Lane, lay dormant. Worlingham Primary School hope to move there next year but a spokeswoman for the county council said that the scale of the work meant it was impossible to complete this £1.17 million plan during the six week holiday.

Instead two temporary classrooms have been installed at the primary school, with work likely to start later this year or early next.

Until this work is complete, only a limited number of activities are likely to be seen at the old middle school site.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “We regret that it will not be possible to manage lettings until the construction works are completed and the primary school has relocated due to health and safety issues and building security. We would, however, consider requests from groups to use the playing field under licence.”

The school is expected to move into the site as soon as the work is completed, which is expected towards the end of the summer term 2013.

A community group is then hoping to turn the primary school site into a hub for the community.

The move to a two-tier system in the Waveney Valley comes just as schools in the county that have already made the step have announced an improvement in their SATS results.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and young people, said: “The recent Key Stage 2 results for those schools in the Lowestoft and Haverhill areas of the county that have gone through SOR show a significant increase in attainment.

“These results are exactly the reason why the county council is committed to continuing with SOR throughout the county and I look forward to seeing a similar increase in attainment in the Beccles and Bungay area.”

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