It's not over...
"Preferred Option" leaves
the door open
April 2007
It looks as if Suffolk County Council, in its eagerness to avoid legal repercussions from its over-hasty, under-researched school reform scheme, has left the door wide open for those areas which want to keep their three-tier schools still to do so.
Mindful of the possibility of a full-blown Judicial Review, the Council worded its March 22 vote so that Councillors endorsed only a "preferred option" for two-tier schooling.
Numerous Tory Councillors meanwhile have described the vote as a "decision in principle."
This means the 17,000 parents, teachers, school governors and pupils who signed petitions telling Suffolk not to throw our money away on a reform which won't work will have further opportunities to argue for alternatives.
If SCC now presents two-tier reform as the only option during consultation, it will be overstepping its powers and flouting a pre-existing legal judgement.
It starts now
This is the judgement handed down in the 2006 judicial review of Northumberland County Council's equally contentious two-tier decision. The judgement summary states:
"What was not acceptable was the fact that at the third stage of the consultation process, individual school were limited to a consideration of different two-tier models, rather than a consideration of both two-tier and three-tier models."
"Consultation had to be undertaken when the proposals were in their formative stage, and since consultations relating to individual schools had only taken place after the LEA had decided to adopt the two-tier system (parents) had not had an opportunity to express their views in relation to the specific schools that concerned them." (emphasis added)
The judgement goes on to determine that parents had the right to determine the "form that the third stage of the consultation process should take."
In Suffolk's case, of course, there is no third stage -- there has been only one, wholly inadequate, consultation phase. Parents Against Change continues to review its options for challenging the legality of this initial phase. PAC has received expressions of support in continuing its fight from: the Labour Party group of Councillors, the Lib-Dem and Independent group, the NUT, school heads and numerous school governors.

But meanwhile the opportunity already exists for opponents of the SCC plan to make a difference.

Here's what you can do right now:
1. Ask to join the Council's consultation panels
Parents concerned about the educational future of their children have been directly invited in a newspaper interview by CYP's Rosalind Turner to get involved in the next phase of the Schools Organization Review.

Please make sure you remain constructively involved. Remember that in the past year, the Council has shown that it:

  • Cannot organize a proper consultation, and
  • Cannot analyse statistics properly

It therefore needs all the help it can get. Your help.

2. Keep writing to your Councillor.
If he or she voted for the change, demand an explanation
Please send us the replies you get. Most of the "for" arguments advanced in the chamber on March 22 would have been laughed out of court in any half-competent school debating society.
You can read them here.
Please also keep writing to your MP. Tory MPs need to understand that political arrogance will have political consequences.


  Email the Council, MPs  
  Download a petition  
Petition the Prime Minister online
  'Have your say' on the BBC  
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SCC Plans and Research
PDP Report Dec 2006
Suffolk CC 2002 Report Recommending "No action"
Suffolk CC 2001 Report Recommending "No action"

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PAC Yahoo Forum
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Bedfordshire Campaign
Newmarket Save Our Schools
Haverhill Parents Against Change
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