Suffolk is a step closer to introducing a two-tier education structure after the council backed recommendations to abolish middle schools in two areas.
The south of the county is expected to axe middle schools altogether by 2013, despite bitter opposition from parents' groups.
A final decision on whether to close middle schools in Sudbury and Great Cornard will be made in the summer after residents have been shown the plans.
Graham Newman, the councillor responsible for children, schools and young people's services, said: "Achievement within the three-tier system is consistently lower than the two-tier system. Research independently verified in 2006 showed the three-tier structure was a barrier to young people."
While the urban parts of Suffolk are served only by primary and secondary schools, many rural areas also have middle schools. The county council's school review panel recommended the introduction of a two-tier structure in 2006. IB.