Critics attack cost of school shake-up
Education chiefs have come under fire after it emerged moves to close Suffolk's 40 middle schools have already cost the taxpayer £726,000.Critics claim the money is being wasted on an unwanted schools shake-up and have questioned if it will even go ahead after a review of council boundaries in Suffolk.
Education chiefs have come under fire after it emerged moves to close Suffolk's 40 middle schools have already cost the taxpayer £726,000.
Critics claim the money is being wasted on an unwanted schools shake-up and have questioned if it will even go ahead after a review of council boundaries in Suffolk.
But those spearheading the Schools Organisation Review, which would see a two-tier education system imposed county-wide and all middle schools axed, have argued the expense is justified.
The figure was revealed following a Freedom of Information request and the money has been spent on publicity, materials, reports and meetings.
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Steve Cowper, for Parents Against Change, said: “They just seem to have their heads stuck in the sand over this. This is a massive amount of money and what will we get at the end of it?”
He also criticised the council for not halting the entire process while the Boundary Committee carried out its review into the future local government structure in Suffolk.
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One option likely is the abolition of Suffolk County Council and the formation of separate east and west Suffolk unitary authorities.
Mr Cowper said: “I was amazed they did not stop the process when Ipswich lodged its unitary bid, claiming its outcome would make no difference. Now the Boundary Committee is carrying out a review and they are still not stopping.”
But the county council defended the spending.
Agreed by cabinet last year, the review is now in its second phase in which the future of individual middle schools has come under the spotlight. Education chiefs believe pupil attainment will improve in a two-tier system.
James Maddison, of the county council's planning and strategic commiss-ioning unit, said he expected the review's eventual cost of £23m would be recouped by savings brought about by implementing the recommendations.
Although Patricia O'Brien, the county council's cabinet member for schools, was unavailable for comment, a council spokesman defended the amount spent so far.
“This is the biggest undertaking in terms of improving the county's education system for over 30 years. It has to be done properly,” he said.
In terms of the future of local government structures, he said it would not stand in the way of the schools review because nothing had been decided. “As I understand it, the Boundary Committee will come in and look at Suffolk's political organisation and come to its own conclusions and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. That is all we have at the current time. Everything else is just speculation,” he said.