Purbeck schools campaigners "disappointed" over ruling

Campaigners against a plan to overhaul a three-tier school system in Dorset say they are "very disappointed" it was 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.

Sandford Middle School, the main objector, appealed against the move.

Purbeck Parents Action Group claimed there was insufficient money for it but their objections were not upheld.

Dorset County Council said the change would reduce the 1,250 surplus school places to 125 and raise education standards by giving students access to a wider curriculum.

'Feel cheated'

The new primary schools and a secondary school would get a £36.5m upgrade and the change would cost £2.3m, the local authority added.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, Alan Parker, acknowledged Sandford Middle School had a strong case for survival on its "individual merits" as it had a good Ofsted rating and a small number of surplus places.

But in a letter to Dorset County Council, Mr Parker said the "status quo is not sustainable".

"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," he added.

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

Andy Kent, spokesman for the action group, said: "We are very disappointed with the ruling and many parents will feel cheated.

"The whole thing looks as if it is going to be cobbled through on a smaller budget."

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

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

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