Full Council will vote on Monday night whether to support the officers’ recommendations and change Bedford Borough’s school system to a primary-secondary structure (6:30pm in the Corn Exchange and we’d be delighted to see you there).
SMS has campaigned for the past (nearly) 200 days against this proposal, from the biased consultation process, through the turmoil of a Mayoral election, and to the publication of a lengthy and flawed report.
In addition to educational research, many of us have learned much about democracy, bureaucracy and politics. Much of what we have learned has not been attractive, but we have all cemented new friendships in a common cause in which we all firmly believe.
The public have never wanted this change. Two-thirds of parents were against change in the public consultation, despite this being one-sided, biased and misleading. We collected 9000 signatures on petitions up to September. The two online petitions have 1130 signatories pro three-tier and 165 pro two-tier. Furthermore, 60% of first round votes in the Mayoral election were cast for pro three-tier candidates. If there were a referendum tomorrow, three-tier would easily carry the day.
If the decision is made in favour of change on Monday, it will cause untold disruption for a generation of children, and put Bedford’s education system back 20-30 years in the primary sector. Make no mistake, this change will have knock-on effects for years in communities as well as schools.
If the decision is made against change, it must go back to the Executive who we hope will then accept Full Council’s verdict. The Mayor gave this as one of his election promises, despite being personally in favour of two-tier (mind you he also said only if the money is there, which it obviously isn’t in the primary sector).
The vote, we believe, is on a knife-edge and may be decided by the number of abstentions or even absentees. Should it be equal, then it will be decided by the Speaker’s casting vote, and surely then the presumption should be for the status quo…
Change of this magnitude should not be made on a marginal basis – councillors rarely reject professional officers’ reports and if half of them have failed to be convinced, then that tells a story in itself.
Contact the councillors to let them know how you feel – they don’t have to agree with three-tier to vote against this proposal, they only need to disagree with the financial viability of the primary sector funding.