Cranfield will be prioritised in switch to two-tier education says deputy council leader
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A phased roll-out of a two-tier education system in Central Bedfordshire has to be delivered so local children can achieve top exam marks, says the local authority.
Part of the planned switch from a three tier system – a combined lower, middle and upper school – to a primary and secondary model, was paused earlier this year by Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) new administration, to reconsider finance and demand for school places within the district.
The move towards a primary and secondary model of schooling aims to raise educational standards as part of the council’s Schools for the Future programme, which is divided up into several clusters.
Speaking to the local democracy reporting service, CBC deputy leader Cllr Hayley Whitaker kept a promise to update progress this autumn.
She said: “It’s absolutely our intention to do the three- to two-tier transition.
“We have to deliver it for our children because they need this system to get the best grades and best results from school.
“There was much work over the summer to understand what pupil numbers are likely to be and how we complete that two-tier switch.
“We know birth rates have dropped nationally, including across Central Bedfordshire. People don’t have as much disposable income. So birth rates, and building and buying of new homes has stopped.
“That housing drives our need for more school places. The new data around our future pupil figures shows we haven’t got that huge demand forecasted a few years ago.
“We don’t want to over-provide because that’s not great for children’s education and the schools will struggle to fund sufficient teachers.”
Cllr Whitaker, also the executive member for families, education and children, added Cranfield would be a priority.
“Cranfield is going to change, driven more by financial concerns than pupil numbers because that area isn’t hugely reliant on housing growth to make the two-tier transition.
“This will be an expensive project. With the cost of borrowing as it stands, that isn’t something the local authority can easily afford.
“The plan is to stagger the work over a longer period of time, so it becomes more affordable to CBC. This will be hugely disappointing to residents, but the key thing is we’re committed to delivering on that.
“Hopefully that will give parents with children in school some comfort that they can plan going forward, and we’ll update everyone when there’s further information.
“The work will be at a slightly slower pace in Cranfield, so we can afford the borrowing necessary to pay for those building projects.
“Some of our children go to school in Bedford borough and vice versa, and we’re keen for our children to attend as close to home as possible.”
She confirmed the authority is exploring how to deliver the programme across Central Bedfordshire to include Flitwick and all the other areas.
She added: “This won’t happen overnight but over several years, which means we need to establish what works for each cluster individually.
“We don’t want to promise something we can’t be confident of delivering. It’s giving some reassurance, while trying to be realistic.”