What has happened to the closed middle school sites in Suffolk?

The former Needham Market Middle School

The former Needham Market Middle School - Credit: Archant

The future of only seven of the 40 middle school sites closed by representatives in Suffolk is yet to be decided.

Bacton Middle School's final few days before its permanent closure.

Bacton Middle School's final few days before its permanent closure. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Information provided by Suffolk County Council shows that many of the middle school sites – the first of which closed in 2011 as the county’s education system moved to a two-tier system – are still being used for educational purposes, as annexes to existing schools or new or relocated schools.

The seven former middle school sites with an unsure future are Castle Hill Middle School and Chalkstone Middle School in Haverhill, St Felix Middle School in Newmarket, Uplands Middle School in Sudbury, Stowmarket Middle School, Needham Market Middle School and Bacton Middle School.

The building footprint of Castle Hill is available for development, while part of the Chalkstone site is available for development after Cleves Place care home was built on part of the site.

The playing fields of both middle schools have been transferred to nearby schools.

Graph detailing the current situation of every closed middle school in Suffolk

Graph detailing the current situation of every closed middle school in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

St Felix Middle School’s site has been completely demolished, as have the buildings at Uplands. Part of the site at the Sudbury middle school will become offices for the public sector.

The site in Bacton is available for development, while options for the building footprint in Stowmarket and Needham Market are still under consideration.

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Suffolk county councillor Gordon Jones, who is the cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “There’s a variation of ways that we have disposed of the schools and appropriate or different uses for some have been found quicker than others but we are currently working on two or three of the sites at the moment but are not in a position to say.

“Each site has been taken on its own merits. One size doesn’t fit all.”

Mr Jones added that there were statutory requirements as well when it came to the sites – seeing whether they were of educational or community use before being put up for sale or development.

Money from the sites was to be put back into the education system, too, Mr Jones indicated.

Speaking of the move from a three-tier to a two-tier system, Mr Jones said: “I was chair of governors at Thomas Gainsborough when it was moving into the two-tier system and when it moved and I can only say there was positive vibes.

“There was a lot of work taking parents on that journey. We spent a lot of time talking to teachers.

“They could go either way as far as their careers were concerned [to either primary or secondary teaching positions].”

When asked about improving education standards across the county, he said: “We are on that journey.

“We knew it was going to be a long journey.

“To be a sustained improvement it does need time – it’s a challenge but we’re working closely with the schools.

“At the end of the day we want the best education we can possibly provide.

“We’re improving faster than the average but we have still got a way to go, but I’m looking forward to fairer funding.

“It’s something I’ve been working on ever since I became a councillor and I hope we do start getting fairer funding in September 2017.”