Day 162 – Vote for a Three-Tier Mayor

Yesterday, SMS informed its supporters of its position on the Mayoral Election. The email is reproduced below in its entirety. Should you wish to receive a copy of it so you can forward it around your networks, email us at save.middle.schools@googlemail.com and we’d be delighted to oblige.

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Dear SMS Supporter and others,

Please forward this email onwards so that we can reach as many voters as possible. Newcomers to the details of the debate should read https://savemiddleschools.wordpress.com/summary/ if they need any more convincing !

Many of you have asked us how you should vote in the forthcoming Mayoral election. Our response has always been that we are not a political party, but a single issue campaign group and that you should vote for whoever you think will do the best for Bedford rather than their own or their party’s interests. However, if you wish to vote on this single issue, the positions of the three leading candidates as we understand them are given below.

Don’t forget that you have two votes under the voting system, and your vote may be transferred to your second choice candidate in the “second round”, where the top two contenders go head-to-head on combined first and second votes. Second votes may win this election.

Your votes may make the difference between electing a pro three-tier or a pro two-tier Mayor.

Parvez Akhtar (three-tier): (and pictured on his leaflet outside Alban Middle School’s “Save Our School” sign)
“As a dad of children in local lower, middle and upper schools, I know how important it is we get this decision right. I believe our three-tier schools have served us well. The case for change hasn’t been proven and there’s now massive uncertainty that the Labour Government would give us the money needed for a reorganisation – but here’s my personal guarantee: parents’ views will have the real role in my consultation process that many feel they don’t have now.”

Apu Bagchi (three-tier):
“I will put the brakes on the borough’s expensive school reorganisation programme and invest more to improve the educational attainment of all our children. If the predicted public spending squeeze really starts to bite, I don’t want to see the local taxpayer having to bail out a scheme that will create massive disruption for teachers, parents and a generation of our school children.”

Dave Hodgson (two-tier):
“My position is that I would like to see the system in Bedford Borough change to two-tier.”

Our (very informal and unscientific!) private polling suggests that this will be a very close contest between these three over two rounds of voting and that the other candidates are not in the running, but for the record Tony Hare supports three-tier strongly, James Valentine supports two-tier and Eve Robinson-Morley would like a referendum of those affected by the decision.

Thousands of voters have signed our petitions – please make sure they get out and vote pro three-tier on Thursday October 15th.

Regards,

Save Middle Schools

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18 Responses to Day 162 – Vote for a Three-Tier Mayor

  1. KDev says:

    Yesterday, Michael Hedley, a Liberal Democrat councillor, again clarified the position with regard to the Mayor, the Executive and the full Bedford Borough Council. Throughout this long debate Michael has been a beacon of sense and information. He has exemplified what is the best in local politicians; there are Councillors of similar stature in all 3 parties and amongst independent Councillors in Bedford Borough. I was convinced that we would lose all the BSF money unless we went 2-tier until a local Councillor, not of Michael’s party, pointed out the spin of the County and now Borough education officers. Throughout it all it is those who care about our children’s future and not about ego or empire building who have looked at the evidence and see a change in school structure as a disaster for education and finance in Bedford Borough.
    I have to hope that in this election the Liberal Democrat loses to those candidates that support retention of our 3-tier school system. Michael you have done so much to restore my view of the Liberal Democrat party, it is such a pity that I cannot support your current candidate for Mayor.

  2. JamesD says:

    So we have a fair and free press. See the Beds on Sunday today. An article that Bedford Academy (£27M) may be at risk if we vote in a 3-tier Mayor! The Academy Consultation documents were clear it was for a 3-tier structure with a note that this may change if the LA went 2-tier. So now the two sponsors, part of the “education elite” who want to force through 2-tier regardless of the effect on Bedford’s children and the Borough’s finances are telling us how to vote, or is it the BoS interpretation that their favourite candidate may not win because of his belief in 2-tier?

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      James – bizarre article isn’t it. Didn’t see anything wrong with it at first. Nothing properly quoted from the spokesman that hasn’t been said before – all very measured. All the emphasis and spin appears to be in the editorial of the article. Did the spokesman actually say “much, much harder”. Looked on the sites of the Bedford Charity and The Academy and there is no press release from them. Nothing about funding being contingent on two-tier in any way. The spokesman is not named. FAQ on the Academy site says that:

      “Are the Sponsors likely to back out?
      The reputations of both Sponsors are at risk if this should occur. There is a strong emotional
      commitment to sponsor the Academy and the money is available to provide the financial
      sponsorship, i.e. £1m each.”

      They also say:
      “What will happen to the Academy if the decision to move to a two tier education system is
      not taken?
      The plans for the age range of the Academy would then be reviewed.”

      Nothing about … and by the way, if the council doesn’t go 2-tier we’re not doing it at all.

      Thank you for drawing my attention to this – suppose I’ll need to speak to the Bedford Charity and ask what they really said and whether they plan to back out.

  3. KDev says:

    We had the spin that BSF money was dependant on 2-tier and we now have, from the same culprits, that the Bedford Academy money may rely on a change to 2-tier. So what about the 2 new Academies proposed for Birmingham, both 14-19 institutions? Evidence, evidence, evidence. Whatever “belief” you have in restructuring our schools please start to look at the evidence before yet again spinning a story to the public. This is more important than “sincere belief” it is about the future of our children and grandchildren.

  4. Fred Bagnall says:

    I attended the hustings at Priory Methodist yesterday and it seems to me that the candidates of the three main political parties are all moving towards the centre ground:
    James Valentine favours 2-tier on his Hastingsbury experience but very much wants to read what the public consultation document has to say.
    Dave Hodgson favours 2-tier on his John Bunyan experience but wants to work in cooperation with other parties and will support full council’s decision.
    Parvez Akhtar sees pluses and minuses for both systems but is happy enough with current system and doubts money to support action is present.

    To complete the story:
    Apu Bagchi has seen no convincing argument for change and doubts the money is present.
    Tony Hare opposes change and would target underperforming middle schools.
    Eve Robinson-Morley would hold a refendum on the matter (and others) and stated no personal position.

    There are of course other issues that distinguish the candidates such as previous experience and knowledge of the workings of the council and their positions on the level of council tax but I know these are of little interest to most here.

    • JamesD says:

      Fred,
      Welcome back. I am interested in your last paragraph: differences in “council tax” and “experience” between the mayoral candidates.
      Council tax:
      Parvez Akhtar “I will keep council tax down”, his national leader promises no increase in council tax for 2 years.
      Apu Bagchi. “Keep council tax as low as possible”
      Dave Hodgson. “keep council tax down”, his party seems more intent on not raising council tax.
      Tony Hare. “wasting money is not an option”.
      Eve Robinson-Morley. “?????”
      So apart from the Green Party candidate all of them promise to minimise any increase in council tax. So to keep council tax down if either of the 2-tier believers’ force through school structure change we can expect a massive cut in school annual budgets to fund the change of 60ish Lower Schools to Primaries. How on earth will this size of cut in an already under funded education budget (£197 less than the England average for each pupil in 2008) lead to anything other than lowering our children’s and grandchildren’s attainment.
      Experience:
      It’s the John McCain versus Barack Obama dilemma that faced the US voters. They chose the less experienced candidate who had the ability but who was seen to listen to and have the support of those with experience around him. Were they wrong?

      • Fred Bagnall says:

        At these hustings Tony Hare said he would reduce council tax. Parvez Akhtar not increase it. Dave Hodgson, James Valentine and Apu Bagchi would wish to match this year’s 0.9% but unwilling to pledge that if it means cutting services to the vulnerable and needy. Eve Robinson-Morley less clear.

        There was only one question on 2/3-tier and neither of the pro candidates choose to explain how they would fund the lower-primary upgrades. None of the others explicitly questioned this particular aspect of the funding either.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      Fred,
      There are other issues – you are right, but in 18 months the incumbent will not have much chance to influence anything strategically as much as the schools issue. Having been on the receiving end of Frank Branston with regard to the schools issue, I know personally that he displayed every intention to drive the schools thing through and of being prepared to use all his power to do so. Clearly one of the candidates, Dave Hodgson, though in favour of 2-tier has drawn back from that in order to widen his appeal to the voters. He realises that abolishing the middle schools is not a vote winner and so has been understandably quiet on the whole thing. But he has never said anything about listening to general public opinion on this one. Therefore I am afraid that I cannot agree he has moved towards the middle ground though he would want it to appear that way, no doubt.

    • JamesD says:

      Fred,
      The provisional budget for Bedford Borough, maintaining current services, is said to be 11½% up on last year. So a 10.6% cut is already needed to meet the highest increases you noted that the mayoral candidates would allow. Does this mean that there will be a substantial cut in school budgets even if we stay 3-tier?
      Any candidate who still holds a “belief” that 2-tier will improve education and not bankrupt the Borough should check which planet he/she thinks they are on. The 2-tier proponent candidates are displaying such irresponsibility that they cannot be considered as suitable to be Mayor. Cutting the resources allocated for education means lowering attainment for all of Bedford Borough’s children and that is what the 2-tier proponents in the Council’s School Restructuring plan say they will do.

  5. savemiddleschools says:

    Rather amusingly, Fred’s post was caught by our spam filter, and from there it is but a short journey to the trash folder, where it surely belongs…

    • KDev says:

      Bit unfair on Fred, he has the day job to keep him occupied.
      Interestingly Fred never seems to comment on where he thinks the funding for 2-tier is going to come from:
      Current Government already proposing £2 billion cut in education spending, other parties “savage cuts in government spending”, Council debt of £92million inherited from the County, little or no increases in Council Tax from the mayoral candidates, or the proposal to fund the restructuring out of the annual school budgets (after the consultation was closed).

  6. William says:

    I have to say that I think the email you have sent out is very fair and unbiased which I am really pleased to see.

    You have even qouted Parvez correct for once.

    BTW bit harsh to poor Fred no wonder he has been missing for so long

  7. KDev says:

    What is BoS up to in its last edition before the Mayoral election?
    Front Page – “Mayor holds the key to £27m academy” – disgraceful pro 2-tier spin that the academy money relies on going 2-tier. Just like the spin about BSF funds repeated by BoS favourites even after a Minister in Parliament refuted their “belief”.
    Page 10, a long rambling letter blaming lower achievement on Middle schools, a pity OfSTED would show that the rest of England’s Middle School systems do just as well as other structures. Why chose this letter, didn’t anyone write to BoS supporting 3-tier this week?
    Page 34 “Identical Promises have turned this key election into a popularity contest” – no essential differences between candidates – sorry 2 candidates are willing to risk our children’s future and bankrupt the Borough on their “belief”, no evidence based decision making for Dave Hodgson and James Valentine. So there is one very important difference which BoS appears to want to hide.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      Spoke to Suzanne Sharp (PR) of the Bedford Charity just now and she says that they did issue a statement to BoS in response to a question from BoS. However, the statement will not be published to anyone else or put on the website as it does not have the status of a press release and nothing has changed. The quote ‘much, much harder’ is not part of their statement. Therefore it must be a journalistic device meant to deceive – apparently single quotes shouldn’t be taken as a direct quote (news to me – even though I achieved 5 GCSEs including English and Maths). However, single quotes have been used above in what appears to be a direct lift from the Academy literature so the deception becomes almost complete. The Academy sponsors remain committed to the academy as they ever were according to Suzanne and so of course the mayor does not hold the keys to the academy at all – she didn’t say that bit as she refused to comment on the article.

    • JamesD says:

      So are the editors / owners of BoS taking a leaf out of Mr Murdock’s book! Are they arrogantly demonstrating “the power of the press” to any future Mayor? Is this again the power and ego of the elite showing that their self interest can override any evidence?
      Or is it the “usual 2-tier suspects” peddling spin and preying on peoples fear in order to prop up their now discredited proposal to force 2-tier schooling on Bedford Borough?

  8. Village Parent says:

    On the DFES website it clearly says under the heading ‘What are Academies’- ‘each academy is unique. Because of the programme’s focus on fitting each academy to its community and circumstances’.

    I also read a report from a meeting held at DFES in September 2004 which states:‘Academies – it is clear that authorities are expected to address underachieving secondary schools by turning them into academies (or by creating new academies where there are insufficient secondary places). If an authority does not propose an academy in these circumstances then it must clearly demonstrate the merits of its preferred alternative. Academies are not funded through BSF but through a separate DFES section for academies’.

    This says to me that an academy will sit alongside the local school system, although run separately, including how it is funded.

    Therefore it is an alternative and not subject to either school system.

    Please follow the links below to read the full articles;

    http://www.middleschools.org.uk/documents/reports/schls_futr.htm

    http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/academies/what_are_academies/?version=1

  9. AHappyVoter says:

    Well,I have cast my votes already for my two favourite 3 tier mayoral candidates and posted them off. Let’s hope the postmen don’t go on strike before thursday.
    I also find the BOS makes a useful contribution at the bottom of my daughter’s rabbit cage each week, and for that use i am grateful 🙂

  10. A.Voter says:

    It’s also very useful for lighting the fire!

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