A two-tier school structure is a step closer to being introduced in south Suffolk by 2013 despite opposition from some parents.
The county council's cabinet has backed recommendations for the abolition of middle schools in the Sudbury and Great Cornard area.
The recommendations were put forward after 12 weeks of public consultation.
The plans are to be published soon to give residents time to comment. Parents have previously opposed the plans.
A final decision in the south Suffolk proposal will be taken in the summer.
Graham Newman, the councillor responsible for children, schools and young people 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 reaching their full potential.
"The most recent figures show the gap between the two systems still exists.
"However, it is important to stress that this is not a criticism of individual schools or teachers.
"The three-tier system makes it harder for all their efforts to have the maximum impact on young people."
While the urban parts of Suffolk are served by only primary and high 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.