Clare councillor gets top honour for work setting up free school

The  Lord Lieutenant Lord Tollemache presents the recievers of the BEM at his  Helmingham Hall home in rural Suffolk. ''FL; Keith Haisman
The Lord Lieutenant Lord Tollemache presents the recievers of the BEM at his Helmingham Hall home in rural Suffolk. ''FL; Keith Haisman

Clare Town Council chairman Keith Haisman was presented with a British Empire Medal this week, one of nine Suffolk residents to get the honour.

Mr Haisman, 63, who is chairman of Stour Valley Community School, was recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list and received his medal on Monday at a special ceremony at Helmingham Hall near Stowmarket.

He said: “This award is tremendous recognition of all the hard work by the trustees, governors and teaching staff which has made Stour Valley Community School the great success it is today.”

He said the school in Cavendish Road, on the site of a former middle school, was going from strength to strength with pupil numbers predicted to reach 320 this year.

“Stour Valley was the first new school to be approved under the coalition government’s academies education policy and so there were few guidelines and no blueprint for us to follow,” he said.

“We had huge support from parents, businesses and the wider community and I was very fortunate to be part of a superb team of highly-skilled people who negotiated their way through all the many challenging demands of the Department for Education.

“We now have an excellent school with great facilities, which is very popular with parents, and students who are inspired by a team of committed and enthusiastic teachers. I am delighted that Stour Valley is now playing such a major role in raising educational standards in West Suffolk,” he added.

Mr Haisman said he was delighted to receive the award but said it was down to the hard working team which put the school bid together and succeeded in getting it approved.

Building work was only completed last year, although this is the school’s second year of operating. Because of this, and government timing, the school is going to be officially opened by Lord Nash, the new minister of education in the House of Lords, on June 16.

“We were the first free school in the country and we were very lucky to be the first to get through and as a result benefited from this,” he said. “We have got some wonderful facilities here for all the children.”

Mr Haisman said the medal was brought back by Prime Minister David Cameron after ceasing to exist during John Major’s time.

As a result of the honour, he has been invited to the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace in May.