Day 161 – Wootton & Beyond

Last night several members of SMS were at Wootton Upper School for the Mayoral Question Time organised by a group of Sixth Formers (incidentally they got the biggest round of applause of the night and deservedly so – good show guys!)

Chaired by Chris Gill of the BoS, the 6 Mayoral candidates answered questions from the audience on all the major issues of the campaign…transport, regeneration, crime and disorder, balancing the books etc…

…and generally we have to say they all gave very reasonable answers most of the time…but with the occasional exception there seemed to be very little difference between their answers…they even agreed with each other !

And then the schools issue came up. Here there was a clear difference.

Parvez Akhtar said that “The first thing that I am going to do is ring the Schools’ Minister and ask him whether he can guarantee the BSF money exists” and, later on, “It’s not going to happen”

Apu Bagchi said “I’m not in favour of change.”

Tony Hare said “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Eve Robinson-Morley said “I’d like a referendum of the people it affects”

Dave Hodgson said “I’m in favour of two-tier but I will accept the Full Council decision and there are other provisos”

James Valentine said “As a Labour Mayor working with a Labour Schools’ Minister I’ll be able to secure the BSF money”…mmm…maybe it won’t be a Labour Schools’ Minister for very long though…he also didn’t seem to realise that there is a huge underfunding in the lower-primary switch…very worrying James, you seemed so plausible and smooth, yet have so little in-depth knowledge of the issues…

What was obvious is that this is one of the only issues that divides the main candidates and that, in a potentially low turn-out, supporters of this campaign can make a difference to the final vote.

We will be emailing our supporters’ list later today in order to let them know our thoughts on the candidates’ views, and to encourage them to exercise their democratic right next Thursday.

18 Responses to Day 161 – Wootton & Beyond

  1. mancity says:

    thanks for this . . The issue of school reorganisation concerns me so much I’d vote for a candidate on that issue above all other issues

  2. Village Parent says:

    I am sure that I am just one of thousands of concerned parents that avidly follow the SMS website. For my part,I have so far responded to the consultation firmly against change, written to my local Councillor and have also put my name down on the No 10 petition supporting the current structure. I have however, not broadcast my feelings to SMS and therefore now copy the letter that I sent to my Councillor in July, which outlines how I still feel;


    I am writing to you to express my grave concerns over the plan to change the current three tier School system and replace it with a two tier system in North Bedfordshire.

    I myself was educated at Primary and then Secondary Schools from the late sixties until the mid seventies, having gone to Oakley Primary under Mrs. Margaret Robinson and then eventually onto Lincroft Secondary.

    At Oakley Primary I was a bright happy child, full of imagination with good social skills and I enjoyed school immensely.

    Moving to Lincroft Secondary was for me personally a shock that I never really recovered from. I was not ready for the curriculum that existed at Lincroft at that time, having come from a small village primary, albeit in the same village.

    I also now had to deal with much older, more street savvy children from the larger villages of Clapham, Sharnbrook and Riseley. I became withdrawn and did not enjoy any of my time at Secondary School. I left at the age of sixteen with absolutely no qualifications.

    If I had been lucky enough to have gone through a three tier system and had attended a Middle School before joining an Upper School, I firmly believe that I would have personally been much better equipped to cope with this change of such enormity to me.

    Having lived away from the area for many years we moved back in 2001 and our son joined Lincroft Middle School.

    I could immediately see the positive changes that had been made at Lincroft and now my wife and I had every confidence that our son’s education would be in concordance with his age and ability.

    Our eldest son then went onto Sharnbrook Upper School where he excelled and he is now going onto University to complete his education.

    Our two younger boys are currently at a local Lower School and our hope in time would be that they will be going onto either Lincroft Middle or Harrold Middle and then Sharnbrook Upper just like their elder brother.

    We also have a two year old daughter, who hopefully will follow in her brother’s footsteps.

    My point is that all children develop at different stages and the current three tier system, I firmly believe, is far better considered in nurturing their gradual development, rather than trying to bring them on quickly by putting them in an environment that will seem as intimidating as it was for me.

    We are North Bedfordshire village people and the current system means that our children are being educated locally in smaller schools with their friends and siblings. They will move through the current system together and will gradually develop through this into young adults, as our eldest son has, with great lifelong friends who are all, in my eyes, a huge credit to the way the three tier system has considerately nurtured their growth.

    I personally cannot see any benefit whatsoever for our children in adopting a different system to the one that we have now and feel that the huge disruption that this will cause them is far too high a price to pay to change something that is evidently working and considerably improved from when I was their age.

    As someone who I have a great deal of respect for, can I urge you to firmly oppose this plan for change to two tier schooling and suggest that any future BSF funding is invested throughout our current three tier school system rather than creating far larger primary and secondary schools that few parents want or believe in.

    Yours sincerely,

    Can I now ask that other silent followers of SMS air their thoughts and let us all discuss and agree which candidate for Mayor will best serve our cause, regardless of any political loyalty? I for one am now leaning towards Parvez Akhtar, purely from what I have gleaned from the posts on this website. Please let me know if there is a consensus of opinion or not?

  3. bobby says:

    it seems to me that first and second votes must go to Parvez and Apu….

    The question is which way around….

    Either could do the job….

    I say we encourage everyone we know to vote that way – at least then Councillors will have to recognise THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN on this issue and get on with filling the pot holes down our road and let schools get on with the great job they are doing of educating our kids 🙂

  4. A.Voter says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bobby. These are definitely my two choices, especially after hearing them all speak last night at Wootton.
    Parvez would, I am sure, bring something refreshingly new to the role of Mayor, Apu I believe to be a man of great integrity and long experience in local government. Both have a realistic view of our schools debate, unlike some others!

  5. William says:

    Sorry I feel like I am saying the same thing over and over again


    We need to start looking at the candidates views on other important things that they can have influence on,

    The mayor cant stop the decison going to full council as there are ways and means to force the decison there as I have posted before on this blog (hopefully our favourite lib dem Mr H can confirm this)

    The mayor will really have no influence on what happens and personally I would suggest that the majority of ward councillors will vote 2 tier.

    I think the conservatives will use the whip, labour will also have a whip running – The Lib dems have a free vote but are obviously very publicly split on this decison.

    I think if elected Apu(although my prefered candidate) will end up with egg on his face and Parvez, who I feel still hasn’t confirmed his position, will be forced to change his view point by the conservative big wigs! (dont forget it was the conservatives at the old county council who tried to force the decison through before)

  6. Baldrick says:

    It has been said by the Chief Exec no less that if the cabinet feel no change should be necessary based on the report then it will not be necessary for it to go to full council, William. The mayor could additionally if he so chose pull the plug anyway before it got there – that is the greatest flaw in the mayoral system for both good and ill. There is no prerequisite for the newly elected mayor to take any notice of anything his/her officers have started. Unless of course you can show me anything in local govt. law that forces them to – I’ve yet to find it!

    Until then we will vote for the ones who will be the common sense bottleneck!

    • William says:

      I think that if a mayor/cabinet decided that no change be made then this decison could be called in by other elected members and the issue then has to go to full council.

      I also think that a senior council officer i.e. CEO or Director can make a decison go to full council.

      As I say hopefully Mr H can clarify on here

  7. Baldrick says:

    Perhaps you want those of us who see this as an opportunity for common sense to prevail to be so disillusioned that we stay away from the ballot box William?

    • William says:

      Unfair comment

      I think people have to vote and am appaled that so few do.

      But we all have be aware that there are also a lot of other issues that we need to think about when casting a vote for a candidate

      SMS members and those brave 2 tier supportes all have to face facts and get mobilised to attend the November full council meeting

      • Baldrick says:

        But if this is the only issue upon which any of the candidates truly differ – and let’s face it, it is, then realistically this is a single issue election with another one in 19 months on the horizon for any new mayor who goes back on his word. HMMM a politician who would get elected only to be unelected within 2 years – can’t see it myself.

        They all want a new bypass, more inward investment, better quality of pavements, lower crime etc. etc. etc.

        This election goes WAY beyond party politics. Generaltions of my family will be spinning in their graves to who I intend to vote for but even if I wasn’t a 3 tier believer then the fact that a local authority was even considering going about this change at such a time would mean any candidate who supported it would not get my vote as I’m already expecting higher taxation from central govt. I don’t need any more from local govt. simply because they feel it should change the educational system.

        Perhaps it has just become a 2 issue election:

        School organisation
        Higher council tax!

      • William says:

        Don’t faint but I will give you that point.

        But I am still sticking to my guns that it makes no differance who is elected they wont have the influence that they or you think they will.

        Mark my words the full council agenda of the 2nd of December will have a vote on the school system (if not before hand!)

        and if it doesn’t happen we can all meet in the pub on that night and you can all buy me a bitter whilst we wait for the next school system debate in 2011!

  8. Baldrick says:

    I’m on a roll now – actually William the Tory top brass in the County Council tried to drive it through but the grass roots councillors were the ones who overturned it – and there was me thinking history was only written by the victors!

    • William says:

      and how many of those grass root councillors lost thier seats when it came to the cull when the conservatives were putting thier new ward candidates lists together for the new unitory elections?

  9. Baldrick says:

    Most of them were in Central Beds area anyway so it is a moot point!

  10. Baldrick says:

    Ahhh – I wonder what Fred would say about all this in his non-expert expert role!

  11. JamesD says:

    There are several possible outcomes to the School Organisation review:
    1 – the Officer’s recommend staying with 3-tier. They have every excuse to change their position, now that they have acknowledged some facts such as BSF money does not depend on 2-tier, BSF money is most likely to be significantly reduced or lost. The cost of Primary conversion is much greater than their initial estimate, the reduction in annual school budgets to support the massive borrowing required will destroy education in the Borough etc etc.
    In this case the Mayor and the executive can accept the report and nothing goes to full Council.
    2- The Officer’s (all recruited to support 2-tier) recommend a 2-tier future for Bedford Borough’s schools. In this case the Mayor and the executive can reject the report, reorganise the Education Department and recruit “suitable” consultants and new officers to come up with outcome 1.
    3 – The Officer’s report backs 2-tier. The Mayor and the Executive take it to full Council for a final decision. Local councillor’s majorities are small, it takes a few dedicated people to identify and support a Councillor’s nearest rival. With less than 2 years to the next election, the threat alone may be sufficient to sway a full Council to support 3-tier.
    Back up if the Council still votes for 2-tier against all the evidence then there is always judicial review and goodbye to any BSF money for a decade.
    We have probably lost most of the BSF money thanks to the arrogance of a former CEO of Bedford Borough Council and the greed of the education elite in Bedford that has cost so much time in the BSF process. It is now time to get real and back the 3-tier system with whatever resources are left – this is about children not about massaging egos.

  12. Michael Headley says:

    In terms of the process I agree with JamesD, although I’m not endorsing every one of his editorial comments!

    In particular at 2, it wouldn’t be necessary to appoint new officers – their job is to carry out the strategy adopted by the council, whichever that is.

    It would be possible for it to go to full council, without going via executive – but that would only be valid for a debate not a decision.

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