Purbeck school system overhaul agreed

A decision to overhaul a three-tier school system in Dorset has been approved by an independent adjudicator.

County councillors recommended four Purbeck middle schools - for nine to 13 year olds - should shut in Swanage, Bovington, Wareham and Sandford.

Campaigners appealed citing there was insufficient money for the change, but their objections were not upheld.

The new system will be implemented by September 2013 following a two-year transitional period.

In a letter to the local authority, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, Alan Parker, said: "While the current system is functioning satisfactorily, there are clear signs that it could easily go into a period of rapid decline unless suitable action is taken now.

"Provided education professionals work together, as I believe they will, the task of implementing this change could become a vehicle for educational improvement in the area."

'Change is hard'

The area's 13 first schools, for four - to nine-year-olds, will become primary schools for four- to 11 year olds.

The council said there were 1,200 surplus school places in the area but the new primary schools and a secondary school would get a £36.5m upgrade.

The change would cost £2.3m, the local authority added.

Dorset County Council's cabinet member for children's services, Toni Coombs, said: "Change is hard, and there's been a lot of uncertainty for those affected by the review.

"But we can now move forward with the reorganisation and focus on supporting pupils, staff and communities."

A series of meetings will now be held with the headteachers and chairs of governors of all schools in the Purbeck area, a council spokeswoman said.

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