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Blaxill Saved

July 22, 2008 12:00 AM

Plans to shut two secondary schools in Colchester and replace them with an Academy have been scrapped.

Official confirmation that the town's Alderman Blaxill School at Shrub End and Thomas Lord Audley College at Monkwick will not close has been given in a letter from Schools Minister Mr Jim Knight to Colchester MP Bob Russell who has led a dogged campaign against the proposals which had been put forward by Essex County Council.

Two weeks ago, during Education questions in the House of Commons, Mr Russell challenged the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Mr Ed Balls) over the proposed closures of the two Colchester schools and their replacement with an Academy on the TLA site at Monkwick - and the next day Mr Russell led a delegation which met Mr Knight at the House of Commons.

Mr Knight has now written a brief letter to Mr Russell in which he states: "I can confirm that it has been agreed that it would not be appropriate to establish an Academy to replace Alderman Blaxill School and Thomas Lord College."

He added: "We are working closely with the Local Authority (Essex) to develop a tailored solution to the concerns regarding performance and surplus places at these schools."

Mr Russell said: "Getting official Government confirmation that Alderman Blaxill School and Thomas Lord Audley College will not close is wonderful news. What we must all do now is to continue to campaign to make both establishments places of excellence which we all want and which the children deserve. There is still a lot to do. This is not the end, but in some senses just the beginning of the future for both schools.

"It was wonderful teamwork from the community which has won the day. I am grateful to the Government for listening and acting, and also to the new-thinking at County Hall which I am sure has also contributed to the decision not to close the schools and impose an expensive 1,500 place Academy on Colchester which public opinion clearly showed it did not want to happen."

Mr Russell said his preference for the future is to see the formal establishment of what he has called the "Roman River Schools Federation" comprising Stanway, Alderman Blaxill and Thomas Lord Audley schools under the Executive Headship of Mr Jonathan Tippett who is currently managing all three. Officially he is the Head of The Stanway School, but last year he was also put in charge of Thomas Lord Audley and at the beginning of this year he was given Alderman Blaxill to look after while the future of the School was debated.

In addition to his actions in the House of Commons two weeks' ago, Liberal Democrat Mr Russell has also presented a Petition to Parliament opposing the closure of Alderman Blaxill School, last autumn he had held a Parliamentary debate on the School's future, asked several Written Questions and raised the matter on other occasions in the Commons.