Day 190 – A Step-Change in Educational Standards

November 6, 2009

If councillors vote to support the conclusions of the 200+ page report, then they will succeed in creating a step-change in educational standards in Bedford Borough.

Unfortunately, they will be a step downwards, as every authority has shown during and immediately after the change. Results then take years to return to where they were pre-change, with no guarantee they will actually be higher.

In the meantime, a generation of children will received an impoverished educational experience, not just in terms of Mr.Gradgrind’s average GCSE results compared to those for whom grammar schools are available, but also with middle school teachers whose morale has fallen so much they are seeking to leave Bedford or the profession, with crowded and unsuitable primary accommodation, and with upper schools trying to build, accommodate new pupils and staff, and cope with the demands of compulsory post-16 education, all at the same time.

One of the most damaging aspects will be to our generally excellent lower schools – the section of the report which deals with this side of the funding is very dense, speaking in financial tongues and generally trying to hide the problems from its readership. Sir Humphrey always used to say that was the best way to get something past a Minister – hide it in the bottom of a red box!

Funding for the lower-primary change is very low and what is now clearer is that:

1. There is no funding for any new equipment for new primary classrooms, with furniture/ICT/equipment needing to be imported from existing middle schools presumably.
2. No funding for any externals – for example adapting playgrounds or sports fields.
3. No allowance for toilets, cloakrooms, corridors or practical/group spaces.

This last one is most important. Page 121 of the report says that 7560 square metres of space will be needed for 126 new classrooms – which is 60 square metres each.

This of course, has not considered room for anything else but the standard classroom space of 56-63 square metres. Guidelines for space requirements in schools are available here.

We have always said that funding was a huge problem – and now that the details are being examined, none of us are particularly surprised that the report was not published until only 12 days before the Full Council vote.

There are now only 10 days left – and the only people that can change this are the councillors. Contact them all and tell them what you think…and encourage everyone else to. The only way that this proposal will get voted down is by pressure from you.