Day 41 – Real Consultation

There have now been two non-consultation evenings. Biddenham on Monday nearly turned into a riot and Harrowden last night was entertaining for other reasons – they were laughing in the aisles. But really you guys on the stage, you need to improve your timing…it’s all about timing…

The 2-tier argument seems to be built entirely on transition and the disruption it causes, which is a bit rich considering the massive disruption to a generation of children. They are even putting together some evidence on this – hurrah – some evidence ! Unfortunately, all the evidence in this area is equivocal and can be argued both ways. And, of course, is not contained within the official consultation document that most parents will make their decision on…it’s too late now…the consultation process has already been biased by that one-sided, misleading and inaccurate document.

This is not OVERWHELMING evidence that the massive disruption will result in a STEP-CHANGE in educational provision.

A real positive from yesterday though – our correspondent Fred Bagnall (see comments on previous posts) who is new to this arena appears to have become an expert in statistics overnight ! Congratulations Fred ! We would like to invite you to present at Maggie B on Thursday 18th June to discuss your findings with us…or Westfield on the 17th June…or Beauchamp on the 29th…or Woodside on the 30th. Because nobody else seems to want to debate on fair and democratic terms. You know how to get in touch with us.

These are very sad days for local democracy.
..and the politicians out there wonder why Joe Bloggs doesn’t participate or even vote?!

If you agree with us, you really need to do something to help. The consultation evenings need real people standing up giving real opinions, not those with vested interests defending their positions.


15 Responses to Day 41 – Real Consultation

  1. Colin Mosedale says:

    I have gone along to each of these 2 sessions so far armed with about a dozen key questions and on both occasions found myself posing an unplanned one. Given the stance that “thats yer lot” you then have to sit through the rest of the evening hoping someone else raises the issue. So far they haven’t.

    And the frustration mounts when all you hear is assertions not backed up by evidence or research.And there is little opportunity for follow up questions i.e. a debate. This is not consultation – it’s Question time.

  2. KDev says:

    Even on Question Time both sides are heard – and allowed to be heard!
    Another appallingly managed meeting last night, at Biddenham and Harrowden pro 2-Tier speakers were allowed questions, more like prepared speeches, that went on and on, 8 minutes at Harrowden. Anyone else was only allowed a very short time for a question and was cut short if they tried to make similar statements for retaining 3-Tier. The Officers continually state beliefs and opinions but will not be challenged by evidence. They will not allow informed questioners to test their assertions in public.

  3. Fred Bagnall says:

    I have not become an expert in statistics (by the way do please tell if SMS is to meet with the Borough to accept or otherwise their figures) and know I have not. There is a pool of statistics out there being abused by all to make their points and neither side is making this pool available to the general populus, preferring to provide them with selected extracts.

    KDev has pointed towards some academic research, thank you. The Borough has also recognised the need for more accessible evidence, which you may recall I requested we should all get to see. Both sides, in my view, are taking their conclusion as a ‘given’ rather than providing us all the evidence and explaining why the balance of the evidence favours them. Can SMS please produce a referenced paper laying out their case, not just rebuttal of the Borough case, in addition to the snippets.

    Finally, my last stir of the pot. If at the end of July the Borough accepts that the consultation shows overwhelming opposition to change, they will need to rethink their BSF funding application. With some having little faith in the officers, what do SMS say should go into that application? What capital expenditure do our school facilities for 11+ year olds require?

    • KDev says:

      Mr Bagnall,
      I am not a member of SMS but you are asking a group of parents, with day jobs, to do the work that should have been prepared by the Council Officers. These Officers are paid, have the time, the staff, the resources and taxpayers money to make the case for 2-Tier and 3-Tier.
      I am a retired researcher who was also involved in the 2006 consultation, which cost £250,000 of Council Taxpayers money. When I hear the words “it is well known” or the use of “Gee Whiz” graphs by Bureaucrats I reach for my research tools. As in 2006 I again find bias, opinion without evidence and worst of all collusion to prevent the stakeholders being fully informed.

    • jonathan parsons says:

      i am going to send this letter to all Councillors but as you mr bagnall i think deserve to read this i first wrote this in 2006 last time this happend then i just had one child so bare with me when reading, for a start it is a bit long but worth the read, i will also say that a most Councillors did not even read but simply deleated wihout even taking the time to look, some i have to say have since been re elected to the new and impoved brough!! and i have since been told a cheap porta cabin is 18,000 per month to lease but a good classroom on is about 30,000 but we may get a bulk discount as we may need alot if this happens

      This is to put forward my views on your proposed change of the schooling system from three- to two-tier, doing away with most if not all middle schools and the land that they occupy.

      First I can say that I am saddened from your total lack of respect for me as a voter. I have come to this conclusion from the way you have treated your voters’ opinions. You have put out a document asking for our thoughts on the current schooling system and it seems that a fair percentage of the voters like me wanted the current system retained. So how it is 52 members of the Council are just going to vote for what you think is best? I voted for you to support my wishes not your own.

      My opposition to the proposed reform comes from my considering the facts contained in your own consultation report (May 2006). First, you admit there may be some increase in traffic around the new secondary schools. I think that changing the upper into secondary schools will increase the number of their pupils dramatically e.g. from an average of 1000 pupils to nearer 2000, and with this they will have a wider age range. This means a lot more traffic condensed to less schools. Parents to all children will be forced into driving them to school as with more traffic around the schools will make it unsafe for the pupils to walk there.

      Second, you intend to sell off the land of middle and lower schools to build more housing estates. More houses will mean more children and more cars on the road to get them to school which will no longer be local to them. In addition, by closing down these schools the local communities will lose the benefits that they provide i.e. playfields, facilities for extra curriculum activities, venues for playgroups, local orchestras, churches, scouts, adult learning and recreational activities.

      Third, you state that during the transfer you may have to put on some portable classrooms. I know from personal experience that this is a poor option: the site cabins are cold and hard to heat in winter and hot and uncomfortable to work in summer. This cannot be a good environment in which to teach out children for the next few years. When I was at school we were changing from two- to three-tier system and your predecessors did not get it right for many years. At the time it seemed to me that I was not going to school but to a building site. Are we to make the same mistakes yet again?

      Fourth, according to OFSTED reports some upper schools in our county are rated as poor. I understand that Mark Rutherford is even on special measures. (now no longer as improving)but the schools will still be huge How are these schools’ management and staff teams going to cope with the challenges of more pupils and their wider and more diverse needs if they are struggling at present?

      Finally, you also state that you will get funding from the government in 2012 of around 250 millions. At the same time according to your estimates the proposed change will cost at least 500 millions. Let’s assume that the sell of some middle school sites bring 120 millions. This leaves a deficit of at least 130 millions. And what happens if half-way through the change the government could not give you all of the promised funding? Are you going to simply put up council tax? I do not think that it will matter to you then, as you will not probably be in power as voted out by your now unhappy constituents. Or, are you prepared to be brave, stand up for your voters, and retain a good and fair system for all our children in the years to come.

      When I first wrote this letter I was happy to see that when the final vote came out common sense prevailed but now I have to say I voted for Frank Branston as I felt he would make a difference but I now see that as mayor all he sees is pound signs along with all the upper school headmasters, not our children’s education they only get one chance and this seems you are determined to destroy. Yes, I concede that in time it may be better, but what if it simply gets worse, what will you do, blame the private schools, or the upper school headmasters, but I doubt yourselves.

      I can say from a very personal experience that I was in the system when it changed to a three tier system, and my education ended up in the dustbin. I would be by today’s system being classed as special needs, as I am dyslexic: I am nether ashamed or too proud to admit this, but thanks to a totally ignorant education system I was branded remedial. I can say this is one thing I am not, but because to many education changes took place at once I, and many others were simply written off as a waste of time to work with. This was in smaller schools, now you want to make them bigger in most cases for upper schools to double in size or more, and all lower schools to double in size to this can be only described as a foolish way forward,

      As we now have a smaller unitary council and only 32 councillors, and according to the consultation document the funding might be 350 million but this is now looking shaky as according to a news report on Thursday 11 June 2009 Bsf funding may be adjusted down or worse cut!! Due to budget concerns,

      I have two children about to enter you experiment they have one chance at education and I have to ask you not to make the same mistakes all over again, let us all stand up for a good and fair system for all our children in the years to come.

  4. savemiddleschools says:

    Mmm…FB…is that a clue?

    SMS have said that they will work with the Borough’s professional officers once a decision has been made to retain and enhance the three-tier system and rebuild schools for the next 30-50 years. We will work tirelessly and for nothing in order to make sure that this bid succeeds.

    At the current time, the Borough is conducting a biased consultation process which is potentially open to Judicial Review. There is little point in working with the officers now as it is the published consultation document which is one-sided, misleading and inaccurate.

    If you like Fred, SMS will discuss this over a beer or two…

  5. Fred Bagnall says:

    Sorry, this issue is important (at least we can agree on something) and I have failed to stay away.

    I fear the DCSF is expecting an application based on a move to 2-Tier and regard that as the step to take, although I understand the message that funding is available regardless of school structure. They may need a more convincing case if it is not the one they were perhaps expecting. Officers appear to believe in 2-Tier and may not be strongly positioned to provide the case to stay 3-Tier. It will not reflect well on them or the mayor if we get no funding now the prospect has been raised. Nor will it reflect well on them if they impose a change that consultation shows to be overwhelmingly unpopular. I accept the DCSF case, using statistical neighbours, that the school system in the Borough is currently underforming and, as a national taxpayer, would expect them to require a good case from the Borough explaining how their proposals to receive £300m+ will improve outcomes, that it will not be “good money after bad”. Volunteer groups may be able to help strengthen the case and it seems SMS is offering to help. That may be a constructive way forward.

    Many will have already found NMSF (The National Middle Schools’ Forum) at They have a download of the Symonds research paper and more. Isolating the Bedford Borough middle school data and comparing it to the national middle school data they provide may not be a valid exercise. Do not do it if you want to show our collective middle schools don’t need help to raise standards.

    Beers and presentations, I could be very busy!
    (and that’s not to knock those who are)

    • KDev says:

      Mr Bagnall,
      You read but did not quote the reference:
      “In the Suffolk School Organisation Review (2006), Galton searches the
      literature for data to shows that dips in transfer are accumulative. He states in his
      conclusion that “…the evidence supports the view that delaying the move from the
      elementary school helps to reduce dips in transfer. [author insert – this finding
      concurrent with logic that transfer improves as pupils grow older] There is less of a
      case for arguing that the dips are cumulative so that pupils attending a three-tier
      system of schooling are permanently disadvantaged” (p. 45). As discussed throughout
      this section, middle and upper schools achieve very similar results to, and in some
      cases better than, primary and secondary schools despite the disadvantages of test
      placement close to transfer. This may indicate that declines following transfer are less,
      or are more quickly made up, in a three tier system perhaps because the timing of
      transfer in the two tier system occurs just as many pupils first experience puberty. At
      this age, as discussed, pupils are found to be more susceptible to the features of school
      environment which can cause declines (Eccles, Lord & Midgley, 1991). Therefore,
      further research into age-specific, post-transfer adjustment may indicate the benefits
      of scheduling transfer for after early-adolescence.”
      So much for 2 transfers being worse than one at 11 years old! 3-Tier is at least as good and may be better. Now look for other reasons for Bedford Borough’s performance – oh no! that would mean the Ex County Council Officers taking responsiblility.

  6. savemiddleschools says:

    Frank, it is a pleasure to talk constructively with you.

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      Oh, what to do if I were mayor. Better find out what authority I have, any answer on that yet lads?
      And have you updated those FAQs on our website yet?

  7. savemiddleschools says:

    We have lasses too Frank…that’s important…they are mothers whose children’s education is threatened…

  8. maj says:

    Carry on the good work guys the council officers are running scared. Our message to them is lets have a fair and open debate about the future of our schools.

  9. Colin Mosedale says:

    Fred, the basis of a 3 tier retention bid could well be using one of the other criteria that LEA’s can use to attract BSF monies from central government -there are in fact 6 criteria and school structure is just one of these. The Borough have made no reference to the other five.
    We constantly hear that our schools are in an awful state and have been neglected for years. Every LEA is under a statutory obligation to carry out annual physical inspections of their estate and have to estimate the cost of bringing their buildings into a safe and secure condition. I understand from Joan Wheeler at Borough Hall that the results of this exercise are due very soon. One of the other 5 BSF criteria is Building condition. So perhaps the first cut of the monies should go to creating safe secure structures for our middle and upper school children to be taught in.

  10. joedy follington says:

    I just wanted to say that my children were in primary schools until 2002 so I have had my children in two and three tier schooling, so please bear with me with my long comment.

    When my son was in primary school he was very disruptive and was diagnosed with ADHD. My son was about to start his final year at primary school and to be honest he was a little devil, nearly getting expelled for his behavior. When we moved to Bedford he was in his 2nd year of middle school. He settled in quicker than I could imagine and when we went to union street clinic for follow up on the ADHD on numerous occasions and they said he didn’t have ADHD, WHY because for the first time in months he was interested in school, he was not bored even though he was behind in some lessons…mainly science as primary schools don’t have science labs and they only start French in the last year before going to secondary school so when my son went to middle school his peers had been speaking French for 2 years, this didn’t bother him and he soon caught up and came home very excited especially when he used a Bunsen burner for the first time.

    My son’s behavior totally changed, he is amazing and is now doing his GCSE in upper school, if it wasn’t for moving here I don’t think my son would have had the opportunities that he has had and going to have, it could have been that he a very different future.

    I was also fortunate to go through the three tier system and I believe that children learn more this way, I remember when I went to upper school, I didn’t want to learn I wanted to start dating boys and along came the attitude with it but while I was in middle school I wanted to learn and do after school activities. Primary schools means this attitude come quicker and lasts longer, I believe this when I look at my nephews and nieces, they are more street wise and grown up than my daughter and all her friends of the same age in middle schools. I want my children to learn, be excited to learn and to be children, I fear that moving to a two tier will cause more difficulties in the long run than any one could realize. The three tier system does not cause more disruption for our children it helps them gradually grow up into responsible adults rather than forcing this upon them at an earlier age when most are not ready.

    If you decide on going ahead with coverting to a two tier system it will cost more money than the government BSF in the long run as you will need to invest in an huge amount towards behaviour difficulties/truancy(from children having to leave one school to go to another class in another school as there is noway the current schooling will cope with the extra students) that this will cause. That is a fact.

    The way forward is not to go back to a two tier system, the way forward is three and many councils should revert to this system as it’s clearly the better one!!!

    Thanks for taking your time in reading this, if you gave my son the choice of schooling he would go for the three tier system every time, surely our children need to be listened too as it’s their future.

    from a very concerned parent

  11. Liz Spurling says:

    I Am very concered that my childs middle school Newnham doesn’t appear to be holding any meetings. I did’t attend the meetings at alban or Goldington as I had recieved a letter saying that Newnham would hold a meeting at a later date. If anyone knows of such a meeting I would be please to have info. Luckly I see that there is still one to be held at Woodside so at the min I’m planning on attending that.
    I full support the keeping of the middle schools and think changing can only be a bad thing.

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