Monday, 13 July 2009

Middle Schools

I have decided to publicise my views on the local education debate. In doing so I need to inform readers of my credentials, and I apologise for the inevitable trumpet-blowing that this involves.

My new division as a Suffolk County Councillor (Tower) includes most primary schools in Bury, half the middle schools and all three upper schools. As I won the largest number of votes on June 4th (2,042) having stood as a Conservative, I do not consider that this was a mandate for reversing the two-tier decision – even if such a mandate could be carried out.

I have an Academic Diploma and a Master’s degree in Education, both from London University. Before becoming an inner London comprehensive head (successively of two schools) I held the post of head of faculty in a Suffolk high school (two-tier system) and subsequently taught in several Western area middle schools and one upper school. My four daughters went through the Western area three-tier system and one of them taught in it. My wife teaches in a Bury middle school.

Based on my knowledge and experience (not just the ‘party line’) I support the principle to move to a two-tier system. Whilst middle schools themselves may have undoubted benefits, I believe that the problems of transferring schools twice at crucial ages (yet not in time with the key stages), added to the isolation of the system within not just Suffolk but the whole country, outweigh these.

I want to work with all stakeholders to make the group three changes as successful as possible, and will listen with interest to all views on this during the consultation phase later this year.


MiddleSchoolMum said...

Yes Councillor Farmer you won but from what others tell me you didn't mention the issue at all on your leaflets apart from a small reference to 'reorganising schools'.

Of the 4 candidates who got in 3 of them actively opposed the abolishing of Middle Schools. In your election the total votes for candidates opposed to the closing of Middle Schools exceeded the votes that you and Councillor Rout received.

Can you answer the following questions:

1. Councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips has made the excellent suggestion of a public debate on the subject and challenged you to take part. Will you accept and begin organising this debate?

2. Why werent you open and honest on your election leaflets about your desire to close Middle Schools?

3. If you are presented with a significant number of signatures from your division (a number greater than the number of votes you received) will you vote against any more steps towards closing our Middle Schools?

For anyone interested a lot more is said on the subject here

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Thank you for replying MSM. Your comments do not alter what I have said in my post, but I will try and respond.

I stood as one of the official Conservative candidates. I don't think the voters had forgotten about the original Conservative led decision. They were reminded enough by people like you, and my opponents certainly milked the issue for all it was worth.

Do you know by how many votes they exceeded? If you do you might not have made this claim; if you don't you were perhaps unwise to trust whoever told you.

I have no plans to take part in any debate, nor have I been directly invited to. This would hardly aid the current pre-consultation phase of reorganisation, but would no doubt be great publicity for your 'cause'.

Your claim that I have a 'desire to close middle schools' is a very emotionally loaded one and not a fair representation of my position.

Anyone can get up a petition. And I am at a loss to know where/how exactly I would subsequently vote.

Finally, having now been elected I do not intend to waste time responding to those who want to turn the clock back nor repeating arguments ad nauseam. What I am interested in doing is using my experience, knowledge and any influence to ensure that the process from now on creates the best for Bury.

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

By the way MSM. Who are you and whom do you represent and how?

MiddleSchoolMum said...

I'm the mother of a child who attends St James. I'm not sure why I should have to say more. Thank you for taking the time to reply even though I don't agree!

Picklesmum said...

MSM - you are lucky having your child in middle school already. Pickle today finished year 1 and I have been told that her year will be the first not to go to a middle school. She will stay at her primary school as one of the oldest in year 4 then year 5 then year 6. It is these children who are going to be mostly disrupted although your child may suffer when all the teachers start finding other jobs (as seems to be starting already).

Bury Boy said...

the following is from pauls blog site

"These are always welcome, and you can choose to remain completely anonymous. Just click on the 'comments' immediately underneath the post you are commenting on."

You dont have to reveal your idenity if you do not wish to, I am sure Paul is interested in your views, he after all has the choice if to publish or not, However we do have to accept others do hold different views to our own and respect these.

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

I asked MSM if she represented any group because the authority of her comments both here and on suggested she might do. She chose to remain anonymous, and, as very nearly always, I will continue to publish her views. As yet she does not seem to have responded to my reply.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of middle schools, does anyone know when this is all going to change? We are moving to suffolk where my daughter will be starting y5. will this affect her?

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Depends where in Suffolk. Try going to (you may have to cut and paste this:

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

OK - try the first bit and get to 'school organisation review'. If you email me privately I'll put the link in a reply to you.

Anonymous said...

thank you