The main findings of the research were as follows:
There is a strong constituency of support amongst 'users' of middle schools, i.e. current and former pupils and headteachers, but the system is falling victim to the strategic priorities of decision makers in local and national government
Headteachers and former pupils suggested that middle schools provide a more appropiate social environment for children in their middle years of schooling. Many felt that middle schools are educationally advantageous since they provide access to specialist teaching facilities at an earlier age than two-tier schooling and are arguably better able to meet pupils' individual needs.
The reasons for the demise of the middle school
The research identified the following possible reasons why the number of middle schools in England has declined since it's height in the early 1980s:
- The three-tier system has taken on a marginalised status within England's education system and policy initiatives at a national level have been based on the two-tier schooling system (e.g. the National Curriculum) leading to the perception amongst some that the two-tier system is ‘right' because it is so widespread.
- Limited finances have meant that middle schools were never able to prove themselves and in bidding for new sources of finances (e.g. PFI money) LEAs operating a three-tier system have opted to incorporate reorganisation into a two-tier system into their proposals.
- A lack of thorough and credible research on middle schools has meant that research evidence has not fed into policy decisions on schooling systems on either a local or national level.
- Demographic changes have created surplus places problems in some LEA areas the solution to which, many believe, is reorganisation into a two-tier system, even if it is at the expense of parental choice.
- Middle schools were born out of the move towards comprehensive education and are becoming increasingly at odds with the move back towards selection at secondary level and the expansion of specialist schools.