Protest over school closure plan

PUBLISHED: 12:31 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:13 08 July 2010

Dozens of 'for sale' boards went up the entire length of a residential street last week as campaigners continued their fight against the closure of a Suffolk middle school.

Dozens of 'for sale' boards went up the entire length of a residential street last week as campaigners continued their fight against the closure of a Suffolk middle school.

Around a 100 protesters descended on Crown Street in Brandon to air their anger about Suffolk County Council's proposal to shut Breckland Middle School.

Members of the Save Breckland School (SABRES) group claim that the closure of the valued community facility will result in several families leaving Brandon, which will turn it into a “ghost town”.

The latest protest came as the county council began the process of publishing statutory notices to close 40 middle schools across Suffolk by 2012 as part of a move from a three to two tier educational system. It also emerged that Forest Heath District Council had dropped plans to take legal action against Suffolk County Council over the abolition of the county's middle schools.

But teachers, parents, residents and councillors in Brandon on Friday said they had not given up trying to persuade the local authority to transform Breckland Middle into a high school.

Eddie Stewart, chairman of the SABRES group said the educational facility, in Crown Street, was first built as a high school in the 1970s and that Brandon had the pupil numbers to return the school to secondary education if it joined forces with nearby Lakenheath.

“Breckland Middle is not just a school, it is the heart of the community, and we don't want to lose it. The first thing that families look for in a town is its education and if the school closes, we believe Brandon will become a ghost town,” he said.

Parents in Brandon are concerned that their children's education will suffer if they have to travel ten miles to Mildenhall from the age of 11.

Bill Bishop, county councillor for Brandon, said his authority's handling of the public consultation process had so far been an “insult” to the town.

“There has been an excellent response from the parents, children, and all those that use the school. We are trying to get the wider community to realise that if the school goes, the prices of their houses will drop and young families will not want to come to Brandon,” he said.

A protest march from Market Hill to Breckland Middle in Brandon is set to take place from 11am on Saturday March 28.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said a six week public consultation on the closure of the county's middle schools started on Friday , and members of the public were being urged to write to the local authority to express their opinion. County councillors are set to make a final decision in the summer.

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