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Top arguments used on March 22 to defend plan to scrap Middle Schools
The following are the real arguments advanced by Tory councillors who spoke in the Ipswich Council chamber on March 22.  
To which we say:

1. Pastoral care can be just as good in two-tier schools as it is in Middle Schools.
-- Ben Redsell, Rosemary Clarke, Ann Rodwell etc etc etc

 

What does this have to do with anything? No one is trying to close two-tier schools, are they?

Closing three-tier schools because two-tier schools can be nice is like closing a museum because there are other, equally good, museums.

 
2. I have visited some two-tier schools in Woodbridge and they had really nice facilities in the primary school.
-- Ben Redsell. Similar anecdotes from others.
 

What a heart-warming anecdote. (Actually, almost all the Tory argument consisted of anecdote. Compare and contrast the questions put up by opposition Labour and Lib-Dem speakers)

Woodbridge is a nice town, and very affluent. It has excellent school results, because wealth and poverty are the prime determinants of school results (see chart to right)

But what about the facilities in tiny rural primary schools? Or in deprived areas of Ipswich? How will scrapping Middle Schools in affluent mid-Suffolk help improve standards in these schools?

They won't. Children in rural areas will be stuck in their small primaries for an extra two years, with few or no specialist teachers, no science labs, and inadequate sports facilities. Either that, or their small primaries will be closed and they will be bused to big ones.

Children in deprived two-tier areas will get nothing. All the money will be spent on getting rid of three-tier schools.

 
3. Most of the rest of the country is two-tier.  

Yes, and...? So what? Is it working? Why did UNICEF put Britain bottom of its league table for children's welfare in the developed world? It wouldn't be anything to do with our schools, would it?

"Everyone else does it", as any teacher knows, is the playground lawyer's defence for the worst possible behaviour.

 
4. It will be increasingly hard to find staff and many head teachers in the three-tier system are approaching retirement.  

This is rank nonsense. Middle Schools are a melting pot for teachers' talent, and have always attracted strong interest from teachers.

Witness the speed with which Blackbourne Middle school in Stanton replaced its outgoing headteacher this week.

The "aging" school heads argument is also nonsense. School heads by definition tend to be older. Most of the world's presidents and prime ministers are over 60. Is this an argument for abolishing democracy?

Come on, Councillors. "Engage Brain before Opening Mouth."

 
5. Our research "was verified" by four leading independent educational academics.
- Patricia O'Brien
 

Sorry, but this is a blatant and unacceptable distortion of the truth. According to SCC's first reports, the evidence was "peer reviewed" by the academics. Then "reviewed" became "validated". Now it has become "verified".

The facts are that the four academics (two of whom work together and have been involved in an educational project with SCC since 2000) wrote four letters. The two who are already involved with SCC said they were impressed with the thoroughness of the research. The other two raised questions about the statistical methods.

Is this a new meaning for the term "verification"? Why were the 2006 results not included in the stats?

 
6. "We will not close most of the village (primary) schools" -- Sue Sida-Lockett   Oh, that's all right, then. Bit of a bombshell, though. Three weeks ago, a number of Councillors were telling us you would not close any village schools.
 
7. "The present system will not provide for the future" - Patricia O'Brien  

Because? You can't just say this and expect it to stand.

Highly noteworthy on March 22 was the fact that Tory speakers, with the notable exception of Lisa Chambers, for the most part abandoned all attempts to defend the change on educational attainment grounds.

Why was that, we wonder? Could it be because there is no useful evidence of any difference between two-tier and three-tier schooling.

Chambers, meanwhile, seconding the motion of the day, trotted out some of the most misleading averages from the Schools Organization Review report, saying that "in no subject" did three-tier schools outperform two-tier ones at GCSE

Apart, that is, from the three-tier schools which did outperform two-tier schools. (see chart, right)

Fact: the worst school in Suffolk is a two-tier school. So is the best one.

Conclusion: it is not the system which counts but the school. Suffolk is throwing our money away on a change which will have no effect, other than to disrupt schools which are working fine, and improving faster than two-tier schools.

 
8. All Change Is Good.
-Jeremy Pembroke, Joanna Spicer, Patricia O'Brien, etc etc etc
 

This is the most fatuous and intellectually bankrupt defence of all. Dozens of Tory Councillors said it. What on earth can they possibly mean?

By this argument, Suffolk should alter its education system every five years, or more frequently if possible, and two-tier schools should now become three-tier ones.

 
9. "Technological changes are advancing apace" - Patricia O'Brien   Golly.
 
10. Er, that's it.    
 
     
Where in all of this is the explanation of how this plan will improve school results?
The Goal:
Come up with a cost-effective plan to improve school results in Suffolk
 
The Solution:
Spend up to £100 million pounds changing all of Suffolk's three-tier schools into two-tier schools.

Actual slide from Prof Peter Timms
(one of O'Brien's "verifiers"):
Lecture on Two-tier vs Three-tier system

Hall of Shame:
How they voted in the famous "free" vote
FOR
Conservative: Claire Aitchison, Eddy Alcock, Mark Bee, Peter Beer, Peter Bellfield, Lisa Chambers, Rosemary Clarke, Terry Clements, Jeremy Clover, John Goldsmith, John Goodwin, Colin Hart, Paul Hopfensperger, Rebecca Hopfensperger, Steven Hudson, John Klaschka, Karen Knight, Rae Leighton, Tim Marks, Wendy Mawer, Guy McGregor, Charles Michell (council chairman), Jane Midwood, Graham Newman, Colin Noble, Patricia O’Brien, Stefan Oliver, Jeremy Pembroke, Roger Pendleton, Ben Redsell, Ann Rodwell, Bill Sadler, Ken Sale, Sue Sida-Lockett, Colin Spence, Joanna Spicer, Jane Storey, Frank Warby, Ron Ward, Anne Whybrow, David Yorke-Edwards.
Liberal Democrat and Independent Group: Julia Truelove
AGAINST

Conservative: Bill Bishop, Russell Harsant, Selwyn Pryor.
Labour: Alyson Barron, Roger Bellham, Malcolm Cherry, Jane Hore, Tony Lewis, Kevan Lim, David Lockwood, Susan Maguire, Harold Mangar, Graham Manuel, Sandy Martin, Jack Owen, Keith Patience, Bill Quinton, Bryony Rudkin, Julian Swainson, John Taylor, David Thomas, Sue Thomas.
Liberal Democrats and, Independent Group:, Andrew Cann, John Field, David Grutchfield, Richard Kemp, Kathy Pollard, David Wood.

ABSTAINED
Conservative: Morris Rose
Labour: Keith Rawlingson
Liberal Democrat and Independent Group: Inga Lockington
   
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