Day 69 – Thank you Nadine and Alistair

SMS has now had time to digest yesterday’s Hansard of the Adjournment debate called by Nadine Dorries and supported by Alistair Burt and here we publically thank them for their support of the parents and taxpayers in their constituencies.

Just a pity that Patrick Hall seems to be keeping a very low profile. As a well-known supporter of the switch to two-tier, perhaps he would make his current views widely known, especially with a general election less than a year away. The voters of Bedford and Kempston deserve better than this.

And to clarify this immediately: SMS is, of course, completely apolitical and composed of many individuals from across the political spectrum, including many who do not usually participate in political issues of any kind. We are a pressure group, not a political party.

The critical points made by Iain Wright (the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) are:

“It would be wrong for me to stand at the Dispatch Box and state, for example, that in all cases a two-tier system automatically lends itself to higher educational success.”

Local people and agencies know best what is most appropriate for their area, based on an acute understanding of these complex factors, and can make judgments on school reorganisation accordingly.”

My Department has no prescribed view on any particular pattern of school provision. Both two-tier and three-tier systems can be successful and effective, so we think that it is up to the local agencies, in close consultation with affected local parents, to decide how school provision is organised in their area.”

We have no plans to phase out middle schools as a matter of national policy or to remove support from three-tier systems where they exist.”

It is important to dispel the notion that the substantial Government money available through Building Schools for the Future and the primary capital programme is somehow conditional on the local authority changing the manner in which its schools are organised—that we would not provide the money unless it changed to a two-tier system.”

“I can say that we have funded, through Building Schools for the Future, a number of local authorities that have middle schools in areas such as Hertfordshire, Kent and Staffordshire, and, closer to my patch, in Newcastle upon Tyne and North Tyneside.”

“I do not know the specific proposals that Bedfordshire local authorities will bring forward or the agreements that will be made with Partnerships for Schools. A whole range of different factors is in play, notwithstanding the complex area of public finances post-2011. However, I can say that school reorganisation is based not on funding but on educational rationale and attainment.”

Iain Wright refused to be drawn on public finances and the guarantee of money post-2011.

The money doesn’t exist. Do not believe it. The country is in a dire financial state.

To commit to this massive capital programme at this point would be an appalling decision based on dogma and fantasies of the future rather than a pragmatic assessment of what is possible.

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3 Responses to Day 69 – Thank you Nadine and Alistair

  1. SB says:

    I would like to use this blog to reply to the letter sent home with one of my children at a lower school in the Alban cluster today, given to her with the words this is for your parents, nothing to do with you!
    As not everyone reading this will have had the pleasure of receiving this, I shall quote relevant sections and comment thereon.
    ‘As part of this consultation Headteachers have been asked by C.Hilliard …to make their preferred options clear to students parents and carers’ So if 2-tier is now the best thing since sliced bread what has changed since 3 years ago when you supported retaining the 3 tier system? Does Mr Hilliard feel he wasn’t convincing enough at the Public meetings that he needs a little extra help from his friends? He certainly didn’t convince me or alot of people I know.

    ‘We believe’,’it is our belief’, ‘we believe passionately’ Wow! Such phrases appear all over this letter, but it is decidedly short on evidence.
    ‘….the current system is not without some success’ To talk about an outstanding neighbouring middle school in such terms is damning with faint praise to the point of insult.
    The point about kids of 9 not being ready emotionally to move on. I don’t know one that isn’t or hasn’t been. They are bursting with enthusiasm to get to those science labs, Music and DT facilities etc etc. These overcrowded future primary schools will never be able to match what 9 to 11 yr olds get at middle school.
    You state that ‘children would simply stay at their existing schools and transfer to secondary school earlier than currently’ There will be nothing simple about 3 year groups plus many new teachers all arriving simultaneously at the grossly enlarged schools such as Mark Rutherford. This isn’t what I would wsnt for my 11 year old when at present they can remain in a humanely sized school in the heart of their own community until they are 13.
    You sate that staying longer at primary school would give them the benefit of ‘a creative curriculum, individualised learning and a nurturing environment’ Guess what! That’s exactly what they get at Alban and others. Another thing they’ve got sussed there is helping yr 8’s to start work on their GCSE options. That’s because they communicate with their feeder upper school in Sandy, not as far as I know one of the 7 Upper schools you mention who are in support of the move to 2-tier.
    ‘Even our closest neighbours have made the switch to 2-tier’ Yes, and the 14 failing schools in Northampton are well documented.
    ‘We stand to lose a once in a lifetime opportunity’ If you are referring to getting hold of the BSF money I think the Minister for Education made it very plain on Monday evening that this money is in no way dependent on changing to a 2-tier structure.
    You say our standards do not compare well with similar areas at secondary level. I have studied Bedford’s GCSE results and over recent years they have been steadily improving. Clearly there is room for further improvement but approriate help could be targeted to the schools in most need of support. Subjecting the entire borough to such massive disruption will only risk lowering standards throughout the system, as has happened elsewhere.
    I also take serious issue with the figures quoted in the consultation document about results. In a number of ways they do not compare like with like, eg they disregard the fact that many of the brightest children are creamed off into Bedfords disproportionately large and successful private sector. Lots of other issues with the figures too but won’t go on about it here. They are well documented elsewhere on this blog and if you’ve been following the debate its quite old news.
    Of course all 7 Bedford Upper schools support the move to 2-tier…they stand to get a lot of dosh and wouldn’t have to share it with their middle school colleagues. Shame the BSF money is looking so uncertain now, what with the economic climate being what it is and the government being so deeply in debt. The Minister wasn’t very encouraging on this point on Monday.
    As for the Primary budget…doesn’t look as though that’s going to be enough to deliver the rosy future you have mapped out.
    If I sound angry, that’s because I am…very. I make no apologies for this, it’s my children’s future we are talking about here.
    Sadly the Lower Schools’ insistence on not supporting their Middle School colleagues’ fight to survive is having a divisive effect in their local communities and cannot be in their own best interests. Lets hope that we will all be able to forgive and forget?

  2. LF says:

    I hear reports of pro 3-tier lessons at middle school and would just like to say that I think one-sided presentations to our children are inappropriate.

  3. savemiddleschools says:

    SMS agrees entirely – but we also hear many reports of 2-tier bias in schools in favour of the change. For instance, telling parents of lower school pupils that the change will not affect them, not informing teachers of meetings arranged with the borough to talk about their future employment prospects, refusing to pass on information about meetings where the alternative views are being discussed, encouraging pupils to take part in online polls when they only have one side of the story…etc. etc…

    Pupils should be asked their opinion in open debates…Teachers should be allowed to express their opinion freely outside of school…Parents should be encouraged to hear both sides of this debate…

    Some schools and in particular some Heads do not want this to happen.

    Why would they want to stifle free speech? What have they got to hide? What are their vested interests?

    If they are so confident of their arguments for change, why won’t they debate openly in public? Trust is being eroded and public opinion is being manipulated.

    What we are asking for is a full, free and open debate in public.

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