Day 201 – The Result

(PS – This blog received 2000 hits in 24 hours after the vote)

In a packed Corn Exchange last night the council voted 19-17 to support the officers’ recommendations, hardly a ringing endorsement of a change that will affect a generation of schoolchildren.

Many councillors spoke on both sides of the debate, some more eloquently than others, but all were passionate about what they believed to be in the best interests of the future schoolchildren of Bedford Borough. Michael Headley spoke particularly well on the potential financial implications, and other notable contributions were made by the three group leaders – Carole Ellis, Nick Charsley and Sue Oliver. Apu Bagchi, Doug McMurdo, Tom Wootton, Carl Meader and Tim Hill also made speeches giving detailed resons why retention and improvement of the current system was preferable to a financially unviable change.

The number of speeches given by the two-tier side was equally impressive, although their content failed to live up to their headline billing. Charles Royden’s impression of David Brent though, was given an appropriate reception by the audience.

However, amidst the pantomime atmosphere, it was made clear by the Mayor that if the BSF money doesn’t materialise, then this won’t go ahead. So, whilst the fat lady is warbling happily away, she ain’t finished singing yet.

All of us in SMS still firmly believe that this is the wrong decision for both educational and financial reasons – and we will post blogs when more news of relevance occurs in the future – but for now…we’re taking a rest…

To the councillors who voted for THREE tier, many thanks for all your hard work on our behalf:

Michael Headley (Putnoe)
Tom Wootton (Roxton)
Doug McMurdo (Sharnbrook)
Carole Ellis (Great Barford)
Sue Oliver (Cauldwell)
Nick Charsley (Harrold)
Apu Bagchi (Castle)
Ray Oliver (Kempston North)
Will Hunt (Kempston South)
Sallyanne Smith (Putnoe)
Mark Smith (Turvey)
Mohammad Yasin (Queens Park)
Carl Meader (Kempston South)
Tim Hill (Wootton)
Judith Cunningham (Wootton)
Ian Clifton (Riseley)
Jim Brandon (Carlton)

Those councillors who voted for TWO tier are:

Dave Hodgson (Mayor)
Charles Royden (Brickhill)
Wendy Rider (Brickhill)
Roger Rigby (Bromham)
Roger Gwynne-Jones (Bromham)
Nicky Attenborough (Kempston East)
Colleen Atkins (Harpur)
David Sawyer (De Parys)
Randolph Charles (Cauldwell)
Margaret Davey (Castle)
Brian Dillingham (Harpur)
Anita Gerard (Kingsbrook)
Sylvia Gillard (Goldington)
Phil Merryman (Goldington)
Sarah-Jayne Holland (Eastcotts)
Barry Huckle (Wilshamstead)
John Mingay (Newnham)
Pat Olney (Oakley)
Jane Walker (Clapham)


37 Responses to Day 201 – The Result

  1. bobby says:

    What happened to representing the views of the people? Shame on those Cllr’s who having gone out to consultation, then totally ignored the parents and young people. Looking forward to watching this whole shambles fall apart over the next year – lets hope the damage they have done tonight is salvageable.

    Well done SMS for fighting fair, with truth, wisdom and honour…

    We should be proud.

    AND what’s more we should stand against these 19 Cllrs at the next election, and give the public credible alternatives to those that would seem to have forgotten they represent the people of this town.

  2. Lee T says:

    I would at this time just like to thank SMS for all the hard work they have done over the past 6-months. It has not been easy to fight the propaganda machine of the Borough Council, but still you fought valiantly and for that I thank you!

    I will be letting both the councillors in my ward who voted for this disastrous plan know how unbelievably upset I and my family are at their short sighted and idiotic decision last night.

  3. River Song says:

    Many thanks for all the hard work to all in SMS from me and my children.

  4. Lillith says:

    What do you suggest we do when our ‘esteemed’ Cllrs are the mayor himself and his lackey Mrs. Gerrard? With the mysteriously large amount of money that’s shown up to make the school that the mayor is governor over, John Bunyan, into the site of some posh academy, it all smells fishy to me.

    • JamesD says:

      The Mayor is no longer a Councillor. There will be a by-election very soon.

      • Lillith says:

        Aaah, I did see the bit about the by-election, but also saw that Anita’s husband was running for that too. I foolishly assumed that she was stepping down for some reason, since it seems a bit… questionable… to have a couple possibly running a ward together. That’s just my two cents on that matter, though.

        *goes to tell the husband*

  5. jonathan parsons says:

    seems that we wll have a new group of cllrs in 16 months time and with any luck a new mayor to, if fred is out there and reading all this i hope you do not have children about to enter our education, or do you send them to privat education instead fred, as for me i have to now consider takeing on the mayor and getting him to eather pay for my children to go to local privat schools or hope that sence will prevail before bedford becomes an education wasteland, look to northampton for egsample, my hat goes off to all at SMS you fought a vailant battle, is it over i hope not till the fat person sings(sorry have to be PC) and to our council members look forward to the next magic trick watching the money dissapire, wow in fact its all ready happning

    yep i am a disgruntaled VOTER rember them so dont be to upset when you get your P45s like many middle school support staff may get

  6. Lillibet says:

    I am so sorry that after all the months of hard work by SMS we have arrived at this disappointing decision. Thank you so much for all the time and effort that you have all put in on our behalf.

  7. KDev says:

    What I saw last night was the arrogance of Councillors telling parents that their opinion did not count. At the beginning of the meeting the Council was faced with a very worried and concerned large group of parents – at the end it was faced with the same group seething with anger that the 2-tier “believers” could disregarded the wishes of the overwhelming majority of parents.
    It’s not over; in 2011 this will be back on the electoral agenda with a vengeance.

  8. A worried parent says:

    Thanks to you all at SMS for running such a great campaign. A rest is indeed deserved!

    Thank you also to all the counsellours who listened to both sides of the argument as well their constituents and voted against change.

    Now we need to start seeing some leadership emerge…

    1) A mayor who demands (with evidence made public)that plans exist to improve the standards for ALL Children in the Borough over the next five years.
    2) Counsellours who ensure ALL their schools are included in detailed plans before any money is spent. We know from yesterdays vote those that have already started doing this.
    3) Officers who need to move away from selling the 2 tier plan and focus on the “routine” of needing to improve ALL our Childrens eduction this year, next year and beyond.
    4) Headteachers with plans for how their school will manage this change without questions on viability of funding, adequacy of facilities, continuity of staff, etc.
    5) Governors who resist acceptance of any change that isn’t solidly and comphrensively planned.

    Leadership… and accountability.

    It’s a big couple of years ahead for Bedford Borough Council. They need to prove that they are not simply the new County Council and, despite voting against the wishes of a huge number of constituents, that their decisions are sound and their execution is flawless. At the moment I view the performance of our fledgling council as moving one notch lower than the old regime (if that’s possible) – so some work to do!

    We are all now watching, making notes, looking for detail, accuracy, improvement, ownership and accountability. Im also looking forward to the next opportunity to deliver my verdict in the polling booth.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      Worried parent,
      I agree with your points and expect to hear some stirring stuff from those who have supported this change. There was never any evidence that there were very many of them at all (what was it – 165 votes on Mike Berrill’s poll as an example) though clearly the most influential were signed up. Some of us are pretty sore about the way this was sold starting some years ago and then leading up to 16th November. Nevertherless, as you say we now need to see the detail in the aspirations and the accountability. We’ve been told the risks will be managed – we need to see that they are. The councillors have voted in full and clear knowledge of the money available. I for one am happy to pay more council tax for a good result as long as the rest of the borough does too of course. However, this is unlikely to be electorally possible and so it needs to be considered that the lower and upper schools will have to take temporary budget cuts in order to finance the middle schools through this phase where costs will go up as they approach closure. It’s not about punishing the other schools but it is about accountability for decisions and the councillors voted for what they think the lower and upper schools wanted in the full knowledge that the money in the proposals is not believed to be adequate – it’s the detail now.

  9. JamesD says:

    How will Partnership for Change (It decides on BSF funds) react to a 2 vote majority to support the change to 2-tier? With only 16 months to the next local election it is obvious that this result is not the firm and final decision on school structure in Bedford Borough. Mr Hodgson, enjoy your very short time as the Mayor, ignoring the financial facts presented by your Portfolio Holder for Finance will make you the least tenable candidate in 2011.

  10. Colin Mosedale says:

    “So you don’t want 7 new shiny secondary schools? I see and I do understand. So what I’ll do is ask you to cough up 3.6% extra Council tax over the next 25 years in order to provide 60 sq m of classroom space so I can convert 50 or so lower schools to primaries. I’ll have to ignore a central Government guideline that this should be 82 sq metres to allow for safe working space for your children as quite frankly the Council’s finances are in such a mess this is all I can afford. Oh and if the secondaries need 10% more – that’s only another £30 million that will be another 3.9% increase to your tax bill.

    There….I’m sure you now feel a lot better and willing to vote for me in 16 months time”.

  11. Dee says:

    God help Middle schools now. I work in one and already the death toll sounds with discussions of desertion begun before the plans are even finished. Come the time of change middle schools won’t need to close as they will already be empty of teachers by then.

  12. Baldrick says:

    Dee – that is precisely what they want. It will reduce the redundancy bill at the end of it! A bit like Elizabeth I leaving the sailors on the ships after the armada so they could all die without paying them…and I learnt that piece of history in a middle school!

  13. River Song says:

    I have sent an email to my councillor, thanking him for voting to retain middle schools and I intend to thank those in the political party I support too, for seeing sense and listening to our arguments.

  14. Lloyd says:

    I am concerned that a majority of 2 could have a disasterious affect on thousands of children in future years and cost the rate payers of Bedford Borough large increases in rates year on year as much as 8%.
    The majority of councillors is not large enough to push this through. The majority should have been 25% at least before this dreadful scheme was allowed to progress.

  15. living and learning says:

    well done on your hard work during this long and drawn out debate.
    My concerns are now with the staff in middle schools, many of whom had taken the suppport of this campaign into their hearts and feel distraught. moral will surely take a hammering as people consider the future and the implications for themselves and their teaching careers. what they need now is the clarity and transparency that is not always forthcomming in the world of politics.strong emphasis must be placed on keeping people informed at every stage.
    middle school staff inparticular need to be motivated to keep up daily high standards in their schools, to meet the demands of the job head on, and continue to strive to give the kids the best education possible.

  16. NN says:

    Many thanks to SMS for the fantastic work you have put in over this past 6 months and for tackling this head on. Some thought that people would just roll over and take it, not fight and accept. So thank you for steering this and bringing it to the attention of many.

    I am disgusted that a majority of 2 is enough to try and drive this through. Like Lloyd says, this should have been a larger majority for such a major decision that will affect the future of many of our children.

    As others have said, will the councillors who voted this through, and our mayor, make themselves accountable, when, like other authorities such as Northampton and Milton Keynes, standards plummet and our children fail in this LA’s education system? Will they be held accountable if money materialises but it is not enough to build ‘fit for purpose’ schools and our children end up being educated in temporary classrooms? Will our upper school heads and lower school heads be held accountable for failing standards? Probably not but there again how many of these councillors will be in office in 16 months time? How many of these upper and lower school heads be in situ at that time? And what will happen, other poor people will end up having to pick up the pieces!

    Thankfully, this isn’t over yet. Hold financial reasons, educational reasons and more importantly our children’s welfare, over their heads and every time the boundaries change then shout loud!

  17. Ed Thomas says:

    Apart from the obvious aspects of this campaign I have learnt:

    (1) Grow a beard to gain power (Brain Glover / Chris Hilliard / Mare Hodgson / Royden).
    (2) When in power, you have to be rude, arrogant to the general public.
    (3) Pat Olney does not read her emails more than once a month. An independent Councillor?????
    (4) Support from parents is crucial, but don’t expect Councillors to support the school where their child goes to. A truly disgraceful act last night – you know who you are! Clue – a low country?
    (5) Hell sounds more appealing, especially if the Holy Councillor Royden has god’s ear. A truly arrogant man! Is he going to use the St. Mark’s car boot sale takings to fund primary schools?
    (6) Nicky ‘Dickie’ Attenborough has moved from the Conservative to the ministy of funny walks.
    (7) Within politics, there are many decent individuals, who should be leading Bedford Borough forward – special mentions to Doug McMurdo / Ian Clifton.

    A very bitter ED, but very pleased to do as much as possible to remove Walker / Olney from their comfy rural seats!

    • Marie says:

      In all this gloom – thank you – your message made me smile – even if only through gallows humour.

      I am truly grateful to SMS for the hardwork. I have read your blogs almost daily. Let your work continue and the fat lady choke!

      The scenario we are in now is an outrage to democracy and common sense. I keep asking myself is there anymore we can do? Lobby Partnerships for Schools? Contact Ed Balls to notify him of Bedford’s educational suicide?

  18. htr says:

    My thanks also to SMS for its sterling work over the last 200+ days. I have read it all with interest!

    A couple of bittersweet thoughts to leave you with:

    1] Assuming there is a change of Governement next May, what if the new Schools’ Secretary, Michael Gove decides the price of approving Bedford’s BSF bid is for us to host one of his 20 new secondary technical schools? Given that they are to be 13 – 18 schools, will the Councillors turn down the opportunity because such an age range is, in their view, a failed model? Isn’t it rich that just as we are getting rid of 3 tier, the next Governement is reinventing it in 20 places?

    2] The same person has gone on record as saying the first white paper of a new Conservative Administration would legislate to move Key Stage 2 SATs to the start of Year 7 from their current place in the May of Year 6. Consider the implications: Primary schools will no longer own the results and will be tempted to lessen their frenzied preparations for them [ which so blights Year 6 ]
    The summer holidays will see pupils regress, as always happen
    The pupils will further regress due to the transfer, which always happens
    The secondary schools will have a vested interest in ensuring the results more accurately reflect the average performance of each child – not their best ever on their best possible day so that they show the maximum value added improvements when pupils take GCSEs. [ Yes I am being euphamistic here ].
    Result? Standards will fall, primary schools will be blamed by the secondaries who own the data, and any sane Authority which has retained Middle Schools which would still conduct the KS2 SATs would shoot to the top of the table of “statistical neighbours”.

    What a crazy world we live in!

  19. William says:

    At the end of the day democracy has spoken and we must now all work together to make sure all our children get the best education.

    We all have the opportunity to stand as and vote for elected members – they are there to make tough decisions and that is what they have done what ever we feel about it!

    (What we don’t know is how many emails the elected members got from parents asking them to vote for 2 tier.)

    ……….. right I am off to grow a beard!

    • JamesD says:

      There will be a number of changes in the make up of the Council in 2011. Some Councillors will take the advice not to face the humiliation that awaits them and not stand. As the 2-tier “believers” said this will not go away.
      The leader of each political group on the Council voted for the retention of 3-tier. The Conservatives nationally say that they will stop increases in Council Tax. Cllr Headley, who holds the Finance Portfolio, told the Mayor and the Councillors that there are not sufficient funds for the structure change. The Mayor said he will keep Council Tax raises to the minimum, Cllr Sawyer said he would not close any Lower Schools. The developers deserted Suffolk when they found out about the restrictions on the use of ex-school land. So where is the money coming from?
      In 2011 a lame duck Mayor will be facing electoral melt down for his party.
      (The age of beardies will be soon over)

  20. SL says:

    This could turn into a rant, I’m sorry. Can’t remember feeling more angry in a public place since…er….Mark Rutherford back in June!!What an unbelievable fiasco this whole thing has been from start to finish! What are we supposed to tell our kids?? Don’t worry dear, I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I don’t ****** well think so!
    We have all seen them in action now and it was disgraceful.
    I cannot bear to think that these people have their hands on my children’s education.
    Last night at the Corn Exchange is not going to be the end of the story. God forbid it ever gets that far, but I would suggest a mass refusal to pay any hike in council tax directly attributable to this irresponsible mess.
    I will be writing to the relevant ministers to ensure that they are fully aware of exactly how Bedford Borough reached the point of making a bid for BSF money based on system change.

  21. William says:

    Any reason why my comments are now banned from this blog?

    • savemiddleschools says:

      “Computer said no” – occasionally WordPress needs a re-approval William. I would like to add at this point that NO comments were banned during the making of this blog from anyone….

  22. SL says:

    William, I feel sure that had they been inundated with requests from parents desperate for a 2-tier system our 2 tier-voting councillors might have mentioned it in their respective speeches.
    That’s one argument none of the 2 tier protagonists dared to use and it was noticeable that all those who spoke for system change did so in the first person…’I believe..blah,blah’ Those who supported 3 tier spoke about the wishes and views of their constituents, and in some cases this in spite of their own personal beliefs. That’s democracy.
    I think the mood of the public at the Corn Exchange on Monday night should leave them in no doubt about how unpopular this decision is with the electorate.
    I am looking forward to the elections already!

  23. jonathan parsons Phd Ma Ba CCNA CompTIA A+ Net+ says:

    Sorry folks quick rant
    At this time my wife is so P*&%$ Off with all Councilers at this time, she cannot beleve that they have chosen to not take a blind bit of notice of the voters, but have simply done as they please,the intersting ting is my wife comes from a fomer communist state and even thay had more sence than to ignore the persons below them, and now she is a british citizen so beware when you ask for her vote next time

    But time to name and shame the following Councilers Decided to deleat a email i sent without even opening

    Dave Hodgson (Mayor)
    Charles Royden (Brickhill)
    Wendy Rider (Brickhill)
    Roger Rigby (Bromham)
    Roger Gwynne-Jones (Bromham)
    Nicky Attenborough (Kempston East)
    Colleen Atkins (Harpur)
    David Sawyer (De Parys)
    Randolph Charles (Cauldwell)
    Margaret Davey (Castle)
    Brian Dillingham (Harpur)
    Anita Gerard (Kingsbrook)
    Sylvia Gillard (Goldington)
    Phil Merryman (Goldington)
    Sarah-Jayne Holland (Eastcotts)
    Barry Huckle (Wilshamstead)
    John Mingay (Newnham)
    Pat Olney (Oakley)
    Jane Walker (Clapham)

    remember you need our votes but probaly your cards are marked so in 16 months vote for you???????

    ps i work in a middle to and sorry for using my full title but did not want the mayor to feel to bad at using his IT qualification

    • JamesD says:

      Cllr Nicky Attenborough – represents KEMSTON (One of the DCSF BSF priorities) and she voted to give BSF money to SHARNBROOK before her own constituents. So any cut in BSF and Kempston gets nothing. She’s been booted out of the Conservative Party and in 2011 she will be booted out of the Council.

  24. Dee says:

    Hi, this is a question to SMS directly.
    I believe reading in your early blogs that if a decision went to change to 2 tier you would challenge this in the appeal process?
    Is this going to happen?

    • KDev says:

      If BSF funds are not given or reduced below those stated in the report it goes back to Council. If all BSF funds are lost even the most ardent 2-tier supporters (sorry with one exception) have stated on record that they won’t go ahead with the change. So SMS may not need to go to appeal but I am also interested in their view.

      • savemiddleschools says:

        SMS is a loose affiliation of around 30-50 parents, grandparents teachers and governors. We reach through our email list and the blog a couple of thousand supporters, some of whom are very angry right now.

        Nobody can say for sure that someone somewhere hasn’t consulted a solicitor since Monday.

        So we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we…

  25. NM says:

    Thank you SMS for all your hard work. It’s a shame that our democratic political system decided to ignore public opinion on this one.
    I work in a middle school as a primary trainee teacher, and as i drove to work the other day i couldn’t help but feel profound sadness at the decision that had passed the evening before. This is a time when i should be feeling excited about spending my future career working in a borough with a good educational structure, and instead i’m sad and disheartened. The borough need to expect a wave of similar sentiment from most if not all of the excellent teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff who work in our middle schools now.

    I just can’t be excited about spending the first however many years of my career in sub standard primary schools with not enough resources, and temporary classrooms littering the playing areas of the students. The decision is nothing less than criminal. The school i work in, Beauchamp middle, is a wonderful site. To think of being ripped down for no good reason is terrible.

    I think those councillors needed to spend some time in our middle schools and marvel at the rate of progress yr 5 and yr 6 students make by being able to use the excellent facilities, that at their age, only a middle school will provide such as ICT suites, secondary sports facilities, science labs, art rooms, design technology rooms and food areas.

    Of course i said all this in my consultation response. Whether it was even read i’ll never know.

    Let’s hope this isn’t the end of the road for the excellent campaign from SMS.

  26. RACHEL says:





  27. Dee says:

    An interesting fact has arisen at my school in light of the forthcoming changes to the school system.
    In Lower and Upper schools when they start deciding their staffing structure for the new primary and secondary schools, no teacher is automatically getting the job they were previously holding.
    This means that they are at as much risk to their jobs as their ‘colleagues’ in middle schools who will also be applying for these jobs.
    I wonder how many would have reacted differently had they realised their job is at risk now?

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