Labour accused of 'point-scoring' on education

Tuesday, 12 September, 2006

The Labour Party, in Bury St Edmunds, has been accused of political point scoring, after it called a meeting over the possible closure of middle schools in Suffolk.
Parents are being invited to have their say over the future of middle schools at the meeting on September 21.
Kevin Hind, secretary of the Bury St Edmunds Labour Party, said: "Some people will say that we shouldn't be making this a party political issue, but if our local MPs are not willing to speak out against this matter it is down to local representatives in our party.
"We have noted that neither the local MPs David Ruffley or Richard Spring have gone public to say that they oppose the abolition of middle schools."
But Mr Ruffley, MP for Bury and Stowmarket, said: "I think it is regrettable that the Labour Party are trying to do some political point scoring when it should be all about the educational standards of children in Suffolk.
"Let's see what the evidence of the public consultation is first because there are arguments either way.
"Once I have seen that evidence, I will be making my views very clear but I think that politicians who jump to conclusions before seeing the evidence, need their heads examining."
Mr Ruffley was due to meet with council leader Jeremy Pembroke to discuss the issue yesterday.
Mr Spring, MP for West Suffolk, said: "I said at the time this first came out that I thought it was absolutely right that this process should be undertaken but I was also concerned that any changes to the structure in Suffolk would cause considerable dislocation.
"Ultimately it is up to the professionals in education to decide what is best- this is not a matter for politicians. But nobody is more interested in the success of education than I am."
West Suffolk is one of the few areas in the country to operate a three-tier system, while the rest of Suffolk and England operate in a two-tier version.
Suffolk County Council claims evidence suggests children fare slightly better in the two-tier system and is conducting a review of the education structure in Suffolk- but that has led to fears that the middle school system may be scrapped.
"Our view is that their closure could have an adverse effect on children, will lead to job cuts and cause administrative chaos," said Mr Hind.
"We have a perfectly good system- there is no reason to change it. What we want to focus on is raising standards in schools. We have some of the best schools in the country," he added.
The meeting will be held at the Oddfellows Hall, in Whiting Street, Bury St Edmunds, from 7.30pm.