Day 93 – Education: A Summary

July 31, 2009

Today, for reference, SMS links to the main Educational arguments we have used so far, in reverse order…starting from the most recent…

Suffolk Halts Change to Two-Tier

Teacher Training and Recruitment

Educational Underspend in Bedford


GCSE Choices

The KS1 Myth

The Transition Myth

The End of the National Curriculum

Sharnbrook & Suffolk

A Sporting Chance

Thinking Independently

The Peers School Oxford

Statistical Neighbours with Grammar Schools

Personal Experiences of Middle Schools

Middle School Teachers

2,3 or 4-Tier?

Education in Northamptonshire


Day 92 – Change We Don’t Need

July 31, 2009

Last week, the Times & Citizen published a 300 word piece from SMS summarising our position. It is reprinted here.

Educationally, the arguments used for change are weak or non-existent. Crucially there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that a move to two-tier will mean an improvement in our children’s education. In fact, authorities that have made this switch have seen massive disruption to a generation of children, schools and communities, and a sharp drop in GCSE results which persists for many years.

Financially, there is no business case, no detailed plan, just an assumption that this hugely complex change can be funded. The lower to primary change in particular is woefully under resourced. This is a critical flaw and will result in either Council Tax rising and remaining high for many years or savage cuts in other vital council services.

The Government has recently confirmed that BSF funding (only available for secondary schools) is not dependent on change to our school system and that it is an entirely local decision. The private sector has long recognised the value of middle years (or “prep” school) education. As the Rose Report (April 2009) has recommended more specialist teaching in Years 5&6, we could be said to be ahead of the game – pioneers of an education system for the 21st century.

The consultation process has been very one-sided. We are being asked to trust officials who produced a consultation document littered with errors, and containing many assertions but very little evidence. The analysis of results is deeply flawed and uses statistics selectively, comparing apples with pears at several points.

There are no compelling reasons to change our current system of lower, middle and upper schools. So let us work together to gain BSF funding and produce a transformation of education that will result in a model three-tier schools system for the next 50 years.

If you agree with us, you should TAKE ACTION NOW

Day 91 – Authenticity

July 30, 2009

Time to take stock after only 13 weeks of this organisation existing!

SMS isn’t two blokes and a dog called Scruffy. Neither is it a large highly-organised lobbying association. It is a loose collection of parents, teachers, governors, grandparents and other senior citizens from across Bedford Borough. We have no funding. No bureaucratic machinery. No voice – apart from this blog of course.

It started over a glass of wine between two very concerned parents who had protested in 2006 at the potential change but hadn’t really thought we’d win then either. We decided that we’d fight this because we believed in the arguments, to provide an opposition and to represent the people who we knew were on our side but didn’t want to get involved.

We were shocked at how much support we immediately received

This support is authentic. It isn’t contrived. It isn’t a bunch of professional malcontents.

When we talk to groups of people, naturally 50-75% of people stop, smile and support us (why not read Sally and Sue’s comments to Day 86 about petitioning in Bedford Town Centre last Saturday). Another 10-25% of people can be won round with the arguments against change fairly easily. Everyone recognises the problems with two-tier, except a small group of influential people who are trying to push through this damaging change.

Fortunately, we now have a Full Council vote on this issue, where every councillor can make their vote count, and take the responsibility for saving Bedford’s education system from disarray. In Northampton when the vote was for change, none of the councillors there believed they were doing anything that would damage a child’s education. It just happened that way – remember, they have the most schools in special measures or on notices to improve of any authority in the country.

Our campaign to save three tier education is authentic; it is the belief of the majority of ordinary people; we ask councillors to listen to the voice that represents those people.

You can help by phoning the councillors to let them know your opinion.

Day 90 – GCSE choices

July 29, 2009

Thanks to the 7 councillors SMS met with last night for a presentation and discussion. Especially those of you who are reading this right now. We hope to present and meet with the remaining councillors during August.

One of the issues that was mentioned again last night was GCSE choices in the new larger Secondary schools.

As the children have moved up at Year 7, there is more time for teachers to get to know the children before GCSE choices have to be made midway during Year 9.

This would be true…IF teachers remained in post for an indefinite period of time.

This would be true…IF teachers taught the same pupils year after year (in a huge secondary school this is so unlikely as to be ridiculous).

This would be true…IF teachers actually knew the names of every child (possible in a human-sized school, very unlikely in a school of 2000 pupils).

The reality of GCSE choices in a massive secondary school is that they are only really thought about in Year 9 and that teachers face mostly new pupils every year, which is one of the advanced skills of teaching. This would be especially true if there is a “school-within-a-school” as proposed in the Biddenham Campus Project.

We need to be careful about creating an idealist vision of what the Brave New World of two-tier would actually look like.

We have a structure that works. It isn’t perfect, but we should target resources at the aspects that need improvement. Wholesale change is unnecessary and wasteful of public resources. Public resources that almost certainly won’t exist.

Contact the councillors to let them know what you think.

Day 89 – BSF and PfS

July 28, 2009

BSF money is administered by the PfS (Partnership for Schools) on behalf of the DCSF. Yet another layer of bureaucracy. Yet another quango. Yet another way to hide the way decisions are made behind closed doors.


Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 5:32 PM
Subject: BSF bid for Bedford Borough

Dear Sir/Madam

Prior to gaining approval for a BSF project to proceed , Bedford Borough Council are to vote in September on whether the current 3 tier education system will survive for the future.

We detail delow a statement from our Mayor’s blog on 12th July.

“I am as cynical as anybody about government statements but last week I was present when Bedford’s plans were being reviewed by civil servants seconded to the BSF programme.

They praised the work Bedford had done in preparation for Building Schools for the Future and said unequivocally that the money was committed to Bedford once its strategy and preparatory work had been approved.

I am good at listening for weasel words and I didn’t hear; and nor did the Bedford officers who were also present. My judgement is that the civil servants meant what they said providing the preparatory work is done before a new government takes over. ”

The civil servants our Mayor refers to were from Partnerships for Schools.

Could I ask you 2 related questions.

1. Would you kindly advise me how this unequivical commitment will actually express itself – e.g. a simple letter from PfS restating this or perhaps a legally binding contract that ensures the funds will not disappear after the expected change of Government next May/June or something else.

2. I understand you operate a 6 stage process with each LEA – pre-engagement, strategy for change, outline business case, procurement, financial close, operational detail. Would Bedford Borough need to be past a certain stage in this process to ensure that funds were not cut part way through the building programme?

Please respond at your earliest convenience as this is very important to the education of children in our Borough.

Thanking you in anticipation of a prompt response,


No reply has yet been received to this query – perhaps you would like to let our councillors know that they could be remembered for years as the turkeys who did indeed vote for Christmas.

Financial and educational chaos in one fell swoop.

What a legacy for the Mayor and his councillors !

Day 88 – Dear Frank

July 27, 2009

Today we print an open letter to the Mayor of Bedford Borough, Frank Branston. This has been sent by email to him as well and we invite his open reply as a comment on this blog.

Dear Frank,

We are writing to you to express our concern over several matters.

Firstly, we were worried by your refusal to accept in person our 8000-strong petition last Friday. For a man who obviously believes in petitions (re: Western Bypass) to be filmed by BBC Look East running away from a crowd of smiling, happy schoolchildren bearing nothing more than a box with names and addresses on, was both comical and deeply saddening. You might be interested to learn that a further 600 signatures were obtained on Saturday in Bedford Town Centre, with the overwhelming majority of people in favour of retention. They were queueing to talk to us !

Secondly, we are confused by your interpretation of “Full Council vote” on this issue that you gave to us during public questions two weeks ago. A Full Council vote under the mayoral system means that should you choose to stick to your guns, the second time round at Full Council you only need 1/3 of councillors to agree with you. This surely isn’t democratic when you have such massive opposition amongst ordinary taxpayers and voters. We therefore urge you to make an announcement as soon as possible that, should Full Council decide by a simple majority to stay with three-tier, you and your Executive will agree to abide by this.

Thirdly, we are disturbed by your refusal to allow us to present to you in private along with councillors during the next 5 weeks, in order that you can be fully briefed about our side of the story and so that we can establish a dialogue.

Fourthly, we are extremely concerned that the “informal debate” you announced at Full Council two weeks ago will be yet another one-sided and misleading process, but this time conducted behind closed doors. Please publish your proposed format so that we can decide whether to take part.

If you wish to discuss these matters in private before making a public announcement to us then we are available to meet this week.

We do hope you give these matters your urgent attention.


Tony Dadd
On behalf of Save Middle Schools

Don’t forget to contact your councillors to let them know your views

Day 87 – Bullies

July 26, 2009

Some of us at SMS were bullied at school…(yeah, I know, it all makes sense now)…but we got through it without too much damage…and one thing we learned to do was to face up to bullies by showing courage.

It takes many kinds of courage to be part of a campaign going against the obvious wishes of bureaucrats, politicians and most of the senior educational establishment in these parts.

The sort of people that are showing those kinds of courage were on the streets of Bedford Town Centre yesterday, talking to ordinary people, mums and dads, taxpayers and voters.

The sort of people collecting signatures were people who have never done this sort of thing before but who are committed to education – the sort of people that schools need desperately to stay engaged and be school governors, parent-teacher liaison, fundraisers.

Another 600 signatures were obtained in one day, to add to the 8000 or so that were handed in on Friday to Brian Glover in the Mayor’s absence.

We are still collecting signatures with a target of over 10000 now and if any of our new (or old) readers would like to help our cause please contact us at

If even more of us show courage, then we can stand up to the bullying approach of people who say “they know best”.

Contact your local councillor to let them know how you feel today.