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Our area has a specific geography of small villages and the market towns of Oundle and Thrapston. This creates specific needs:
We risk losing our small primary schools in the area. Parental preferences will change with the creation of three large and well-equipped primary schools to compete with only slightly larger other primaries. With a huge leap between these small schools and Prince William, parents are also less likely to choose small. Other parents currently choose schools in our catchment to come to a more nurturing middle school system - they will no longer come.
Our children are arguably young children for longer than they would be were they brought up in an urban inner-city context. This means at 11 they are not ready for an adult environment. Prince William currently has a sixth form on site, rather than there being a separate Sixth Form College, as in some areas. This means that our children will be exposed to 18 or even 19 year olds everyday on the bus, at school and at break times.
Lose our three-tier and we will change our children and our communities forever!
Middle Schools promote well-being.
Why keep the three-tiers in East Northamptonshire?
Internationally the best age for transition is considered to be 13-14 years of age (OECD and US for example). This is supported by the Conservative Lord Kenneth Baker in his recent book (Kenneth Baker '14-18 A New Vision for Secondary Education), which alongside the school leaving age increase to 18, seems sensible.
OFSTED reports routinely find that children gain more in terms of personal development and well-being in a middle school setting. This is also supported by academic work (Symonds, J. 2010, Cambridge University). In the US it was the reason many areas introduced the Middle School system to replace the Junior High of old.
Questions of cost...?
Middle schools need not be more expensive for the local authority. The forum of Middle Schools research estimates that the average cost spent per child by a local authority is actually lower in a Middle School than in equivalent years in a secondary school within the two tier system. Moreover the cost of changing from a three to a two tier system has consistently been greater than estimated. In Oxford it ran to £35 million (16 percent more than estimated).
The evidence is not conclusive either for three or two tier systems. Some schools have improved after changing to a two-tier system (Bradford), others have not (Merton, London). Some Middle Schools have outstanding in their OFSTED reports (such as King John in Thrapston) others do not but may achieve it in the future. For instance, Oundle and Kings Cliffe Middle School has been recently told by OFSTED, in the light of improvements made, that they will achieve at least a 'Good' in the next OFSTED. There seems to be a range of results across Middle Schools, as to be expected (Forum of Middle Schools analysis of 2011 results). So although some argue that a two-transition system is worse in terms of achievement, where this is well managed it is simply not the case. Where schools are well managed and join up to work well together across a cluster, three-tier systems are as successful as two tier.
What is clear is that during the huge upheaval to change from a three to a two tier system, several years of children will suffer in terms of their education.
What is best in terms of achievement?
Middle Schools are great in terms of promoting well-being.
Our children need to remain children for as long as possible.
The three-tier school system is suited to the geography of the area. We don't want large primaries or all-through schools here.
Cost should not be an issue in terms of the middle school system, as long as schools are properly managed and good oversight applied.
Achievement is neither better or worse under any particular school system. Good, joined-up management is what makes for a good school.
The costs of change for our children are enormous and the benefits negligable, if any.