Why some Bury St Edmunds children won't be able to go to the school next door

Suffolk school organisation review (SOR) has finally hit Bury St Edmunds and the sparks are starting to fly. Readers of this Blog may remember that shortly after the current coalition government took office two Bury St Edmunds Middle schools (Horringer Court and Westley) managed to convert to academy status in an opportunistic move designed to prevent Suffolk County Council being able to close them as part of the move to two tier education.

At the time I was far from convinced that the DfE had any clue of the consequences of their decision. They saw two academy bids supported by the consistently outstanding County Upper School and signed them off without perhaps knowing that they were earmarked to be closed as part of the move to two tier.

It was only when Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder and local Tory MPs actually met with Gove in London back in November 2011 as is documented in my post Revealed: The done deal on Ixworth Free School and Thurston Partnership that this academy conversion loophole was closed but by then ship had already sailed in Bury.

Horringer Court, Westley and County Upper together bizarrely with Barrow Primary School located some 9 miles from Bury form the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust. Even more bizarrely Barrow Primary School isn't even an Academy but a Voluntary Controlled Church of England maintained school.

As the rest of Bury St Edmunds is due to move to two tier schools as part of Suffolk County Council's SOR the Academy Trust is pitching itself as an all through school. At first sight this just looks like a somewhat disingenuous way to pretend they aren't just maintaining a three tier educational silo in Bury St Edmunds. However the consequences of this move are even more worrying.

As an all through school once you have a place in any one of the schools you are guaranteed a place further up the chain. Westley Middle's website makes clear what the real agenda is. A place at County Upper.

Not quite so exciting though for children who live on the Howard Estate in Bury who as a direct consequence of this decision appear to end up potentially refused a place at a school literally next door to them. At this point a map will I think be helpful to illustrate the issue:

As you can see County Upper is right next to the Howard Estate but children living there will find themselves behind a queue of others who have attended Westley and Horringer Court Middle schools. Indeed those absolutely certain to attend the school are pupils who started at Barrow some 9 miles away. They will be guaranteed places at Westley and Horringer Court and hence at County Upper. Not so a child living next door to the school on the Howard Estate.

All of this caused a stir at the recent consultation meeting held at Howard Middle which is to close as part of the re-organisation. As the EADT reported:
Addressing the county council, Ernie Broom, chairman of HEART (Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants), said: “You are causing problems within the community. You are dividing our community by doing this.”
County Upper, which has just received its eighth consecutive outstanding Ofsted judgement claimed to still want children from the Howard Estate which is one of the less well off areas in the generally prosperous Bury St Edmunds but its admissions policy appears to tell a different story.
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