Day 34 – SMS Middle School Open Meetings…

First of all, welcome to all our new readers…there are a LOT of you ! Keep blogging on every day, and in those spare moments that we all have (!), why not take some time to read back through from the beginning…you might even find a few jokes hidden in there somewhere…Frank Branston as Blakey, that was our favourite…inspired…thanks Frank, you’ve been one of the biggest assets for our campaign so far…

We have had 2 open meetings at middle schools so far – Daubeney in Kempston on Monday night and Alban in Great Barford last night. Very many thanks for coming to all of you, that is about 250 parents so far – every time we speak, every time we explain the alternative view, we grow stronger as a campaign. The blog stats went through the roof last night and as this is our major means of communication, we need you to keep coming back.

The next meetings are at Goldington tonight (7pm on Wed 3rd June), Margaret Beaufort in Riseley (7pm on Thursday 18th June), and Woodside (probably Tue 30th June…watch this space)…anyone is invited, so please come along…

Last night’s parents’ meeting was at Alban Middle School in Great Barford and the parents were baying for Frank and Chris’s blood by the end…OK I exaggerate for comic effect, they were much more polite and English about the whole thing… but I think we’re allowed a little poetic licence here…

One of the most important things to come out of the debate was how powerless our elected representatives feel when confronted by someone like our all-powerful mayor. It was said by one councillor standing for re-election that there was nothing anyone could do, that of the 36 elected representatives, 9 of Frank’s closest political allies could be chosen as his cabinet, and that the school system decision could be made by Frank and his mates over a beer in the local pub…OK, OK, comic exaggeration again, I admit they are serious local politicians who think deeply about the issues before they retire for their favourite beverage…mmm, beer…oh no Frank as another cartoon character came to mind…really must get more sleep…

So back to the thread, some serious questions for local democracy here then. Why should a decision of this magnitude be taken by essentially one man?

Let’s all write to Frank Branston to ask him why he thinks this is democratic and what would happen if the public vote came down strongly in favour of retention? Why won’t the consultation meetings allow both sides of the debate to present – SMS will be there at all 6 with a USB stick ready to stand up and present. Why not ask this question at the meeting itself? And why won’t he call a local referendum on the issue?

Frank Branston may be contacted by email at frank.branston@bedford.gov.uk (you might be able to click on these links to fire up your Outlook or other email programme)

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13 Responses to Day 34 – SMS Middle School Open Meetings…

  1. Leodis says:

    Great blog! Sadly though however much a figure of fun Frank Branston may become we are still looking at the possibility of, in effect, a single person making a decision for thousands of children for the next 10-20 years. Someone who, with respect, only knows what his senior officers tell him about education! And as the scrutiny committee showed, he doesn’t always believe them! I wonder if he believes Mr Balls when he says that the funds available aren’t fixed to 2-tier? As SMS says – write to him – in a democracy it should be a full council decision – better still a public referendum!

  2. JamesD says:

    Tomorrow the people of Bedford Borough will elect 36 Councillors to the new unitary authority. Mr Branston was NOT elected to his position; he has been appointed as Mayor of the new Unitary Authority until 2011. NO election for him.
    How can our democracy be so abused?

  3. caron says:

    Whilst I passionately believe in Middle Schools and feel that they are going about this the wrong way, Frank, Chris and John are trying to solve a problem that has blighted the schools of Bedford for years, that is the so called “parential preference” system. This in effect means choice for some and not for others. If catchment really meant catchment then we would not have the “sink” schools that nobody except those with no choice send their kids to. Those in the LEA believe that a two tier system will fix this. Unfortunately they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater instead of just fixing the unjust and easily fiddled admissions system which means that, for instance, middle class parents in Kemptson send their kids to Wootten – leaving mainly working class kids at Hastingsbury. What we need in Bedford are socially diverse schools of an equally high standard.

    • ISRAKW says:

      20 or so years ago when I was in the schooling system, in Bedford, there was no parent choice as there is today. I went to the local schools and they were socially diverse. What’s gone wrong?

    • Jo says:

      I am a middle class parent from Kempston and my child will be attending Hastingsbury.

      Even if a school had the best teachers in the county but to may working class children the parents would send them to other schools. Changing the tier system is not going to stop the clientele and the middle class parents sending their kids to “better” schools.

  4. JamesD says:

    Caron,
    and when Central Bedfordshire stops its children going to Wootton, poor Hastingsbury will be left with even fewer pupils.
    Hastingsbury will then be topped up with those rejected from the new academy – Peers School in Oxford and the old John Bunyan will look like success stories in comparison.
    There are no promises to keep the current catchment areas, no promises to keep all of the Lower Schools open. There will be no place for 11 year olds between the Academy and Hastingsbury.

  5. William says:

    James how can you say Frank is un-elected??

    At the last mayoral election it was made clear whoever got elected as mayor would beit for four years and that some of that would be for the new unitory!

    I didn’t hear your complaining at the time!

  6. JamesD says:

    William,
    The Unitary Authority decision had not been made when Mr Branston was elected as the Mayor of a DISTRICT COUNCIL

    • William says:

      William,

      We all knew that unitory was on the cards at the time of the last mayoral election (I agree we din’t know who would take power)

      So you contacted Mr Branston and the local papers on the 1st of April to demand a mayoral election?? (didn’t think so) You cant really bring this into the debate now then!

      It is quite clear that moving pupils from lower to middle schools, and then to upper schools, is disruptive and does not allow enough time for pupils to study for important Standard Assessment Tests – This has been confirmed by the chief inspector of schools.

      Hopefully we will all be in a position to attend one of the meetings next week and we can give the powers that be a fair chance to put forward thier case.

      Maybe then people will put thier emotions out of the way and be prepared to think out side of the box.

      Has anyone compared results for areas that have gone from 3 to 2??

      • savemiddleschools says:

        If the “powers that be” have such a strong case, why won’t they allow us to present our case equally. Surely that is right in a democracy? Come on William…why don’t you lobby Chris Hilliard and Frank Branston on a fundamental tenet of democracy.

        We have most of the intellectual arguments sewn up too you know…speaking as an emotional luddite…funny that, getting emotional about one’s children…do you have any William?

        And for the record, every single authority that has gone from 3 to 2 tier has suffered a massive drop in standards, including Northamptonshire which has the most schools on special measures or notices to improve of any authority in the country.

        Yes, does sound like standards have gone up doesn’t it?

  7. Emma says:

    I have just sent Frank Branson a very stern email. Just wanted to let you all know!

  8. Marie says:

    I went to the Goldington Middle School last night. It was such a relief to hear other parents sharing the same concerns and reaching the same conclusions that I have. This morning, at my son’s lower school, parents who were at last nights meeting, were raising the profile of the other side of this currently, seemingly, one-sided unitary-led consultation. I will be writing to Frank B and the new local councillor. However, I am very concerned that NONE of the canvessing councillors would be drawn or commit their position on this important subject. I am, therefore, unsure who to vote for today as I am not convinced that any of those standing for election will represent the parent’s views.

  9. Jo says:

    I have just wrote an e-mail to Frank telling him of my shock that Bedford was not a democracy any more and asking how many children he had in the school system that would be interrupted by this new system.

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