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Closure of Westley and Horringer Court Middle Schools in Bury St Edmunds approved by Department for Education

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Plans to close Suffolk's last remaining middle schools have been approved by the Department for Education – but one of the sites will still be used to teach pupils.

Unity Schools Partnership published proposals in January to shut Horringer Court Middle and Westley Middle Schools, in Bury St Edmunds, and for the town's County Upper and Tollgate Primary Schools to take on extra year groups.

The trust said the number of families choosing middle schools was 'diminishing' but fears were raised by community leaders over the impact on education and the level of future provision in the town with the loss of two Ofsted-rated 'good' schools.

Westley Middle School. Picture: Mecha Morton
Westley Middle School. Picture: Mecha Morton
Horringer Court Middle School. Picture: Mecha Morton
Horringer Court Middle School. Picture: Mecha Morton

The trust was today told the proposals have been approved by the Department for Education.

As a result it will begin to implement the following plans:

  • Children in Year 4 will stay at their primary schools in September 2022 and will not be admitted to either middle school.
  • In August 2023, the middle schools will close and County Upper School will take responsibility for the education of Years 7 and 8, based at the Westley site.
  • Tollgate Primary School will extend to include Year 5 from September 2022 and Year 6 from September 2023.
  • Transport to Westley and Horringer Court during 2022-23 will be subsidised so that there is no increase in costs to families as a result of the proposed changes.
Tim Coulson
Tim Coulson

Tim Coulson, Chief Executive of Unity Schools Partnership, said they understood there were parents 'concerned and disappointed' at the changes.

“We will now work with each school community to ensure that disruption is minimised and plans are followed to create a school system in Bury St Edmunds that further benefits the children of the town and surrounding area," he said.

The trust published proposals in January and following a consultation, with public and online meetings, it amended the proposals before submitting them to the Department for Education.

Mr Coulson said: "We decided that there should continue to be education on the Westley site and that the new County Upper secondary school should be distinctive in having younger and older sections of the school, with the younger children still at the Westley site and not transferring to the County Upper site until they are 13 years old.”

Westley and Horringer Court were saved from Suffolk County Council's closure of middle schools after joining the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust, which later became part of Unity.

Unity said the number of pupils attending middle school had dropped from 841 in 2018 to an expected 694 in September 2022, and to 550 in September 2024.

In January there were 63 staff at Westley and 34 staff at Horringer Court.

When the proposals were announced the trust said its aim was to offer staff a chance to be redeployed in another school in the trust.

This would include additional posts needed at Tollgate Primary and County Upper but could also be at one of the other schools in the trust.

There is now a required period of time set aside to hear what people think about how Unity Schools Partnership should implement the plans.

Referred to as the ‘listening period’, it will run from tomorrow to Friday, June 17.

Anyone wanting to take part in the listening period should visit here.

There is information and a link to an area to register comments.