Suffolk NUT brands School Reorganisation plans a “huge mistake”

Press release from NUT, October 29th 2007

Suffolk County Council’s announcement today that it will create 11-16 schools and sixth-form colleges when Middle Schools close in Lowestoft and Haverhill has been branded a “huge mistake” by Suffolk NUT, the largest of the teacher unions with over 3,000 members in the county.

Suffolk NUT Secretary, Martin Goold explained that, from 2008/9 onwards, the idea of separate sixth form and FE programmes of study will gradually disappear, with the introduction of the new vocational Diplomas and curriculum entitlement for all students from age 14.   “The plan to down-grade our successful Upper/High Schools to 11-16 schools will be a disaster and will prove totally inadequate for the new 14-19 curriculum”, said Mr Goold.  “When the new diplomas come in, there will be no break at 16.    Students will have already started vocational diplomas in year 10 but 11-16 schools will not have the specialist staff to provide this, because those specialist staff will want to be teaching more advanced skills at the FE college or so-called sixth-form centre.“

The NUT fears that up to half of any year 10 cohort will leave 11-16 schools for the FE college at age 14, because 11-16 schools will not be able to offer them what they need, and are entitled to.  In Lowestoft, one plan is now to create an extra 11-16 school, which the NUT terms as “sheer folly”.

“We need 14-19 centres, not sixth-form centres”, says the NUT.  “Because our existing Upper/High Schools in 3-tier areas are already 13-19 schools, Suffolk has a golden opportunity to convert these into modern, fit-for-purpose 14-19 centres, working in consortium to provide all the students in each community with the full-range of courses and levels.  The Middle Schools can then easily be converted to Key-Stage 3 Schools (11-14) or into the 11-14 annexes of the Upper/High Schools.  Unlike the current Council plan, the NUT suggestion would cause the minimum of disruption to schools, pupils and staff and actually provide the educational structure we need for 2010.” 

“The last thing we need in 2010 is 11-16 schools and sixth-form colleges”, said Mr Goold.  “It is just replacing one out-dated 3-tier system with another, which will be outdated before it is created.”

Suffolk NUT is also most concerned about Suffolk County Council’s plan to create huge 4-11 Primary Schools, particularly in Lowestoft, where they are actually planning to create Primary Schools of up to 600 pupils and to bus young children around the town.    The NUT says this is “planned chaos” and that such schools will be too large, unnecessary and unlikely to be popular with parents, pupils or teachers.  They say that this has only been proposed so that prime building land on housing estates can be sold off to pay for the ill-thought out reorganisation at Secondary level.

The NUT’s own proposal, right from the outset, has been to decide how to provide the full 14-19 curriculum first, then decide what to do about Middle Schools *.   The NUT proposal has always been to:

Suffolk NUT first warned Suffolk County Council of the 14-19 requirements in response to the original consultation on School Reorganisation in October 2006.*   Since then, despite clear evidence submitted in writing to the Authority through the so-called “stakeholder” consultation arrangements, no mention of the NUT’s expert advice has been made in any feedback.  “The officers of the authority have carefully edited out all criticism of 11-16 schools from the feed-back from consultation to ensure that the politicians are shielded from the inconvenient truth that they have been very badly advised and are about to set up multi-million pound white elephants”, said Mr Goold.

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Background information for Editors:  

* Previous responses to consultation from the NUT, including the NUT Responses in the Lowestoft and Haverhill so-called ‘Stakeholder consultation’ groups, are available on:

Note on the 14-19 Curriculum, to be phased in, after pilots, from September 2009:

The Government intends all young people to be in training or education until age 18 with at least 40% following vocational courses.   11-16 schools will not meet this need, neither will a sixth-form centre – only those schools and colleges which can offer, and staff, all-through courses from Level 1 to Level 3 will be able deliver completed courses.  Existing sixth-form colleges will have to develop into 14-19 centres or opt out of vocational courses altogether, becoming elitist ‘A'-level centres.  

Starting in 2008, and working up to the full scheme from 2013, there will be a statutory entitlement for any student in any year from age 14 to 19 to study one or more of the following “vocational” areas in any combination of course and level:

None of these courses exist as yet, by 2013 every school or college has to ensure that any student can access any of these courses, in addition to the “traditional” curriculum and traditional options, and these vocational courses must be offered at each of Levels 1 to 3.  There is no break at 16 – the new concept is “stage, not age”, so a student who finishes a Level 2 (GCSE) course early in Year 11 must be able to start a Level 3 (‘A’-level) course while still in Yr 11 and perhaps continuing to study other subjects at a lower level.    This is one aspect of the Government’s “personalised learning” programme.

11-16 schools are unlikely to be able to offer vocational subjects at level 1 (GCSE D-G) or Level 2 (GCSE A*-C) because the staff qualified for that will be employed by the college offering that Diploma course up to level 3.  Any student wanting to follow a vocational course to Level 3 will therefore have to go to the college.  Staff who can offer Level 2 and 3 teaching will not want to be limited to an 11-16 institution and by definition no 11-16 school will be able to be offer all-through courses to age 19.
Contacts for enquiries on this press release:


For Suffolk NUT   

Martin Goold   01284 763980 07850 221051
For Lowestoft NUT     Peter Byatt    01502 568115 07979 841475
NUT spokesperson
For Haverhill     
Graham White    01206 263545  01787 375232   07786 796006





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