MP demands more support for move to two tier education in Central Bedfordshire

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The confusion is driving families out of Bedfordshire, MP claims

Concerns over the move from a three to two-tier system in Central Bedfordshire's schools has been highlighted in the House of Commons.

Mid Bedfordshire MP Alistair Strathern slammed what he says is a lack of action from the Education Secretary after learning no ministerial meetings were held in 2023 or 2024 with Central Bedfordshire Council to discuss the plans.

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The news was revealed in an answer to a Written Parliamentary Question from Mr Strathern, a former maths teacher, on the subject.

Some of the transfers to two tier education have stalled - Photo Ben BirchallSome of the transfers to two tier education have stalled - Photo Ben Birchall
Some of the transfers to two tier education have stalled - Photo Ben Birchall

Mr Strathern said: “For years, the previous Conservative administration of Central Bedfordshire Council presided over a botched transition from a three-tier school system to two-tier, creating uncertainty and disruption for local families and schools.

“After taking office, the new CBC administration has had to pause the plan, because of the woeful management of the transition by the previous administration. This uncertainty, coupled with national pressures on school capital spending, is pushing schools and parents to breaking point.

“I’ve met with countless headteachers across CBC who, as a result of the stalled transition, are battling a range of issues from teacher retention to pupil place planning and I know families are considering moving out of Bedfordshire because of the uncertainty.

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“The fact that not a single ministerial meeting has taken place with CBC to try and resolve this mess is a complete dereliction of duty by this government, on an issue that will have a lasting impact on educational outcomes in our area.

“I’m determined to not let this nightmare drag on and will continue to meet with both CBC officials and headteachers, to help pull together a plan for schools which can finally be delivered with confidence.”

In a statement on the current tier system Central Bedfordshire Council said it was continuing to move towards the two tier system with “an ambitious, long-term programme to raise education standards in Central Bedfordshire by ensuring the area has the right schools, in the right places, delivering the best education.”

it said: “We remain totally committed to supporting all three-tier schools across Central Bedfordshire to transition to the established Primary and Secondary school (two-tier) model.

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“In Shefford and Stotfold a decrease in birth rates and the smaller rural schools has meant a rethink on the scheme.

"In line with our commitment to transition to a primary and secondary school model across Central Bedfordshire, we will also engage earlier with schools in the areas that have yet to begin the process: Harlington; Ampthill and Flitwick and Leighton-Linslade.”

Shefford and Stotfold schools will now not transition by September 2025. The Biggleswade changes will go ahead as planned. Plans for the lower schools of Ridgmont, Husborne Crawley, Aspley Guise and Woburn are also being reconsidered.

In his written answer, Education Minister Damian Hinds said: “Officials from the East of England Regions Group have a weekly schedule of meetings with Central Bedfordshire officials, where a member of its Schools for the Future Programme responsible for the transition from a three to two tier school system is available to provide updates on the programme. In addition, on 23 February 2024, the department held a specific meeting where Central Bedfordshire officials provided an update on the progress of its three to two tier transition.”

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