Click here for the Glossary page
Click here for the main index of the Burton Latimer Heritage Society site
Click here to return to the previous page
Researched and presented by Margaret Craddock

Letters relating to merging of schools


c/o Fernbank, Church Lane, Burton Latimer

The County Council intends to close East Lea County Junior School at the end of this year and to offer the school to the Church of England to administer as a Church School.  Before this can be done the Secretary of State for Education must give his permission.

We believe that the majority of parents of children at East Lea School are against this change for the following reasons:-

  1. They are pleased with the school as it is and they do not believe that the change is being made with the best interests of the pupils in mind.

  2. They recognize the serious concern felt by the teaching staff at the prospect of a change of management and can foresee at best a lowering of morale which would be felt by the children and at worst possible staff changes.

  3. They deplore the opting out of responsibility for providing education by the County Council, and its transfer to a Church body over which the electors have no control whatsoever.

  4. The Church will receive an 85% grant from the national government in order to ‘buy’ the school.  In effect the Church will acquire a valuable building and contents for less than a fifth of its real value.

  5. Neither the parents of pupils nor the electors of Burton Latimer were consulted by the County Council before the decision was made.  We feel that this represents a contemptuous and patronizing attitude towards its electors by the County Council.

  6. East Lea School was built by Nonconformists as a non-sectarian school, so that children in Burton Latimer could be provided with an education which was not Church-biased.  To allow it to be come a Church School would be a betrayal of the principles of its founders.

  7. The staff and parents of the school have worked voluntarily to provide equipment for the school which was denied it by the Education Committee.  They are incensed that the fruits of their labours should be given away without their consent.

The Action Committee was elected after a meeting of parents.  We intend to publicise our case and to protest strongly against the proposed change.


    May 1981

    As you know because there are fewer children in school than there were a few years ago, the Local Education Authority wishes to amalgamate the Church School with East Lea School, and to do this on the East Lea site, where there is more room and better facilities.

    This will involve considerable sacrifices on the part of the Church School, which not only accepted the loss of its juniors a few years ago, as part of the re-organisation under which East Lea was set up, but now faces the prospect of closing down in its present form and surviving only as part of another school.  In return for these sacrifices, the Governors are asking for only one concession, namely the retention of the present link with the Church in the amalgamated school.  This seems to us to be perfectly reasonable, since there are County Schools in the town already, and because, when we were asked to agree to the Church School juniors moving to East Lea, it was made clear that this was to be temporary, and that the junior age range would be restored in a few years.

    We originally intended to make no reply to the campaign which is now being waged against our request.  We thought that, if objections were sent in in the proper way, there would be an inquiry, and that would be the time to state our case.  However, the whole town has now been circularised, and some of the information we have been given seems to us to be inaccurate or misleading.  We are reluctant to enter into controversy, but feel we are compelled to make some reply.

    1)      It is part of the educational system of this country that County and Voluntary Schools exist side by side.  The former are entirely, and the latter partly, supported by public funds, and the Local Education Authority provides most of the education in both.  (In a Church School, the Church has some responsibility for Religious Education).  It is therefore untrue to say that the County is evading its responsibilities by allowing a Voluntary School to be set up.

    2)      It is untrue to say that East Lea School was set up because the Nonconformists of the town wanted a non-sectarian education for their children.  What is true is that the Nonconformists subscribed to the setting up of the original County School for this purpose in 1899; but this school was provided with new buildings in Park Road a few years ago, and East Lea was set up in 1974, with the co-operation of the Church School in releasing its juniors, as a new school in the old buildings.

    3)      It is untrue to say that the Church would acquire the furniture of, or any equipment provided by parents for, the School.

    In the last few years, the Church in Burton Latimer has not felt justified in spending money it could ill-afford on a couple of redundant buildings which we could not use and were prevented from selling.  It is quite wrong to conclude from this that the School, if it became a Church School, would not be properly maintained.  Church Schools are, in any case, not maintained by the parish, but by the Diocesan Board of Education, which has kept the present Church School, and all its other schools, in perfect order.

    4)      We understand the feeling about lack of consultation; but we elect the County Council to make decisions, and, in a matter like this, there are proper ways of objecting to them.  If the electors had to be consulted before any decision was made, government would become impossible.

    Finally, we believe that, where two schools are amalgamated, some concessions are called for on both sides.  The present campaign seems to be designed to ensure that no concessions are made by East Lea, and can only bring it about that, whatever the final decision, it is made with the greatest possible ill-will.  We hope it is not necessary to add that we like what we have seen of East Lea, and do not want to change the way it is run.

    You have been told where to write to if you object; if you support the continuation of a Church School in Burton Latimer, we very much hope that you will write to the same address and say so.  Please remember that this should be done before the end of May.



    Dear Parents

    The events leading up to the proposed amalgamation between St Mary’s and East Lea Schools began in 1974, when the County Junior School moved out of the High Street buildings to Park Road.  It had been realised that the Park Road building was not big enough for all the children in the school, and that a new school would need to be established in the High Street building for those children who could not be accommodated in Park Road.   There were fears, however, which may or may not have been well-founded, that there would not be enough children to make the new school, East Lea, viable and for this reason, the LEA asked if the Church School would become an Infant School only for the time being, the juniors being transferred to East Lea.  The Church School Managers agreed to this, on the understanding that it would be, as was asked, for the time being, and that the situation would be reviewed after three years with a view to the eventual restoration of the junior age range.

    Now that there are fewer children in school, the LEA proposes an amalgamation of the two schools in the East Lea buildings, which are larger, and have more playing space.  The Church School Governors have agreed to this, but having sacrificed the Junior age in 1974, they do not feel called upon to make the further sacrifice of the virtual disappearance of their school.  They have therefore asked that the Church Aided Status which belongs to St Mary’s School, should be transferred to the new school.  They feel that this would honour the spirit of the agreement made with them before East Lea School opened.


    There would again be, as there were from 1899 to 1974, both Church and County Schools offering education for children from five to eleven years old.  Presumably the zoning lines would remain as a general guide, but nobody would be compelled to send their children to a Church School nor prevented from doing so if they wanted to.


    It would make no difference to the way the school is run, or to the way the children are taught.  We very much hope that the Headmistress and the other teachers will stay, and continue to run the school as they do now.  The Church has no plan, no desire and probably no power, to make any changes, and we do not honestly think that the children or their parents will notice any difference.  The children might see a little more of the Rector than they do now, but probably not more than they did in the first two years of the school’s life.  We hope that the Baptist Minister would continue to come into the school.  A new governing body will shortly need to be set up, whether the school is ‘Aided’ or not in terms of the 1980 Education Act.  In an Aided School, this would still include representatives of parents, staff and local authority; there would be representatives of the Church as well, who would very slightly outnumber the others.


    Just to ensure that there is in the town, for the future, one school which will always be a Christian school.  We think East Lea is such a school now; we are sure that many parents, not only church members, are glad it is, and would want it to remain so.

    On behalf of the Governors of St Mary’s School

    W E Pitt


Click here to return to the Main Index
Click here to return to the Previous Page