Teaching staff warning from union leader

The start of a new school year was last night greeted with a warning from a teachers' leader in Suffolk that the planned closure of middle schools from 2011 is already having a negative impact on the standard of education in the county.

The start of a new school year was last night greeted with a warning from a teachers' leader in Suffolk that the planned closure of middle schools from 2011 is already having a negative impact on the standard of education in the county.

Martin Goold, county secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), claimed some middle school staff were looking for new jobs, four years before the first wave of closures are due to start in the Lowestoft area.

He predicted a battle to maintain staffing levels, but Suffolk County Council hit back, insisting it was confident staff could be retained. It also released figures showing fewer middle schools vacancies than last year.

Mr Goold said: “It's going to be very difficult to maintain standards and maintain a good education system.


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“Teachers aren't going to hang around to be redeployed and the difficulty is going to be maintaining a full staffing complement for middle schools as we approach their closures.

“It is a worrying time for education and we are trying to keep the show on the road by making sure there are sufficient numbers of teachers in front of children.”

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Suffolk County Council proposed the £23m plans to abolish middle schools and create a uniform system of primary and secondary education in a bid to raise standards.

Lowestoft and Haverhill have been chosen to pioneer the changes from 2011 and consultation with parents and teachers is due to start in November. A final decision on the proposals is due to be made in the autumn of next year.

Mr Goold added: “On the whole, middle schools and their staff have been very much against the changes. You have a situation where staff have chosen to teach in middle schools and they now face a choice of going to a school that will include nursery and reception children or a school which includes GCSEs and A-levels.

“Many of them have been teaching in middle schools for many years and will find that a very difficult adjustment to make. There's nothing quite like being a middle school teacher, but they are going to have to jump one way or the other.”

Figures released by the county council reveal there are currently 110 vacancies in Suffolk's middle schools, compared with 117 in September last year and 103 in 2005.

A spokesman said: “We recognise that major change can create uncertainty, which can be unsettling for staff.

“However, we are confident that the level of teacher vacancies compared with previous years is a reliable measure of our ability to retain staff within Suffolk schools. And, indeed, there is certainly no indication that newly qualified teachers are unwilling to take up posts in our schools.

“As an authority, we take seriously the importance of retaining quality staff and, therefore, maintaining high morale is a high priority for us. We will continue to work with schools and the unions to do all we can to address these important issues.”

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