Day 62 – The Right to be Heard

Excellent meeting at Woodside last night, and thanks to the many parents that turned up – your commitment to this cause will help to sway councillors’ opinions in our favour – should they get the chance to affect the decision, that is…

Last two of our 10 planned meetings are tonight in Harrold Village Hall at 7pm and tomorrow in Bromham Village Hall at 8:15pm. Please come and debate, whatever side of the fence you are sitting on at the moment – it’s a fundamental of democracy to be allowed free speech within a democratic debate.

This was the central argument that SMS had with Chris Hilliard (Director of Children’s Services) and Brian Glover (Interim Chief Education Officer with responsibility for BSF) when we met on Friday June 5th, three days before the official consultation meetings began. Eight parents supported by Patrick Hall MP and Alistair Burt MP requested the right to reply at the official consultation meetings.

Alistair Burt, in fact, strongly suggested to Chris Hilliard that it would be a good idea to allow SMS 10 minutes at the start of each meeting, not because he necessarily agreed with our opinion (at that point in time) but that it would be the most sensible and pragmatic solution.

Chris Hilliard considered, but refused, suggesting that we were free to hold our own meetings instead. So we did. We have travelled to parts of the Borough that the official consultation couldn’t reach, spoken to parents that would not ordinarily go to meetings, and stood outside countless school gates chatting to people who feel disenfranchised.

It has been enlightening. An estimate of the responses we get is about 60% strongly pro-three-tier, around 30% who aren’t bothered, and about 10% who are strongly pro-two-tier. Many of the 30% are easily persuaded to back three-tier once they start to think about how it will affect their children.

The reaction of Heads has been incredibly diverse. Some (even the pro-two-tier ones) have been very supportive (thank you). Some have just ignored us totally (which of course is their choice). Some, however, have been positively fuming at the temerity of a group of parents to stand on the streets outside their schools and hand out leaflets advertising open meetings where everyone is welcome. One in particular has written a vitriolic email to us to complain about our discourtesy. Interesting really, as that particular Head ignored several emails over the past 2 months from us trying to induce them to engage in a dialogue.

SMS really doesn’t understand why this is an issue. We are not aggressive or confrontational, we chat to parents nicely and if people don’t agree with us, we allow them the freedom of their own opinions.

Why would some Heads want to control the flow of information to their own parents? Surely controlling information is what happens in totalitarian regimes, not mature democracies?

Oh well, at least we’ll have a democratic decision on September the 16th by the Full Council…or will we?


2 Responses to Day 62 – The Right to be Heard

  1. KDev says:

    What I will never forget from last night’s meeting was the fear and emotion in a mother’s voice as she described her concerns over her children’s future during the change to a 2-Tier system.
    I have been trained to analyse, to be detached, to look for and at evidence, to balance the evidence and draw conclusions. Rationally I can find almost nothing to support the change to 2-Tier.
    When I am tired and fed up with the struggle for democracy and education in Bedford Borough I will remember that mother’s voice.

  2. I V Dzhugashvili says:

    We have all met Headteachers who claim “to have their parents / governors under control”. Headteachers are figures of authority in any community. Some are skilled leaders; some are managers who constantly fear for their position. There is a distinct difference between authoritative leadership and authoritarian management. It does not take a psychologist to place the lower school headteachers you have encountered into the relevant categories.

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