The Last Post?

Today Bedford Borough released a statement confirming they were scrapping plans to change to two-tier education. You can read about it here.

It is now imperative that David Sawyer (the portfolio holder for Education) ensures that we are not embroiled in the same skirmishes in 3,4,5 years’ time. It is now time to repair the damage done to our education system by ill-conceived and poorly executed change, to encourage further co-operation between schools across the tiers, and to give teachers a clear message that their careers are safe in middle schools.

The very first thing David should do, of course, is to re-open Woodside Middle School, rather than send Years 7 and 8 to sit in portacabins on the Mark Rutherford site.

This is the time to commit to teaching and learning in our current system for the next 20-30 years. You never know, in the meantime the rest of the country might realise just what they have been missing…

Stop Press: Wed 14th July. The Mayor said at the Full Council meeting tonight that the closure notices on schools would be rescinded “by the end of term”.

Stop Press 2: Fri 16th July. The Council have now said there needs to be a statutory consultation period for 6 weeks before revoking the closure notices…(so the left-hand doesn’t appear to know what the right-hand is doing)…confidence-inspiring stuff indeed…


47 Responses to The Last Post?

  1. Colin Mosedale says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the reversal of the decision on Woodside. Sadly it all comes too late for the redundancies for most of the staff there. I also understand when the lorry arrived at Mark Rutherford to lay the concrete for the portakabins there was insufficient width of access and it was sent away! The education of 200 or so children in our area has been sacrificed on the gamble of achieving BSF funding – the Mayor should now resign.

  2. jonathan parsons says:

    well according to the press release two tier is now dead, but it may one day rear its ugly head again, so let us now concentrate on the upcoming elections, in a attempt to remove the exponents of this vile cause, till then though mr Mayor can you and all your colleags please return 485,000 pounds to schools so thay can get on with the roll or reparing the mess you have created, see you all in May then

  3. Colin Matthews says:

    Does the BOS article contain the complete statement from the Borough? If not, can anyone provide a link to it? I was unable to find a statement of the Borough’s web site.

  4. savemiddleschools says:

    The bit at the end of the article is the complete “comment” – David Sawyer has added his own quotes which are given first in the article.

    We should all be aware that they may try and revive some of the plans based on more limited funds – depending on what Michael Gove tells them of course. Perhaps it is time to email Michael Gove to tell him what parents and teachers think of this whole debacle !

  5. R Maule says:

    What a relief!
    What terrible cost has this whole process been? Where once local schools worked well together, a process has encouraged competitive behaviour resulting in the break down in good will.
    By nailing colours to posts (understandably in terms of protecting the fantastic teaching staff and schools) relationships will take a long time to mend.

    On behalfof our family – Thank you to everyone who gave time, energy, passion, support and advice to Save Middle Schools to try to safeguard my son’s education.

  6. yalleriron says:

    Good luck to you all and well done. The price of this to you is doubtless eternal vigilance as “they” will surely try it on again. At least you’ve had an opportunity to identify those in favour of 2-tier. I bet there are some discomfited primary and secondary Heads.

    You may have seen that here in Suffolk swathes of the reorganisation have been deferred up to 7 years hence. However, the County will be ploughing on to wreck about half of the 3-tier system on their old timetable. No reprieve for us there, unfortunately.

  7. Sally says:

    It’s very thoughtful of Mr Sawyer to be so ‘furious’ on our behalf about the huge waste of tax payers money spent on the Borough’s futile bid for BSF funds. He may remember the large number of council tax payers present at the full council meeting back in November, most of whom were there to make it clear that we did not want the Borough to waste our money in this way.
    Mr Sawyer and co chose to ignore us and carry on with the 2-tier debacle regardless. I always thought we’d get the chance to say I told you so. What a criminal waste of money which could have been put to so much better use! Those who pushed for structure change despite all indications that this was folly now only have themselves to blame, however much they would like to aportion the blame elsewhere.
    This is the end of the line for a change the people of Bedford never wanted in the first place. Now can the so-called experts please get on with improving standards within the existing system? Either commit to that or let someone else take over instead.

  8. Ed Thomas says:

    Surely the borough’s council executive waste of £486,000 is as disgraceful as the MP’s expenses scandal.
    Isn’t it funny how we are talking about building bridges and not schools. if only the Conservative or independent candidate had been successful at the mayoral election, then there would have been no £400,000 plus waste of tax payers money, as they were aware of the financial climate and would have halted the consultation straight away.
    But today, where was the apology, the explanation to all the pupils, parents and teachers for the low morale caused in schools, the lost of teachers to other authorities, the bad feelings between schools, the unsettling and financial implications, but instead Tom Sawyer was just angry and furious to deflect any responsiblity for which he should shoulder. Where was the Night Mayor, in hiding, writing his resignation letter or hopefully sacking Brain Glover or anyone else with a BSF title in their job description.
    Lets hope those wise 17 councillors who supported the SMS campaign will hold these people to account!


  9. JamesD says:

    See the official Bedford Borough Council statement on BSF – nothing about ending reorganisation!
    Building Schools for the Future Programme
    A Bedford Borough Council statement:
    “The Council is disappointed to receive the news that the BSF Programme has been terminated. The Council when approving the three to two tier change based its decision on BSF funding being available. Given this is no longer available in its original format the Council is arranging a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education so as to gain an understanding of all the options available, in light of the review announced yesterday. The Council remains committed to improving educational standards throughout the Borough and will be considering how it moves forward to achieve this objective, as details from Government become clearer.”

    THe 2-tier belivers are just that, it is like a religious belief, they will stop at nothing to force 2-tier on Bedford.

    • Michael Headley says:

      I’m pleased to let you know that the council’s website has recently been updated with the full statement from Cllr Sawyer, giving the full position. Not just the initial short statement posted earlier.

  10. Michael Headley says:

    Most readers of this blog will know my view on 2 tier / 3 tier.
    However, we need to ensure that we don’t get confused about the money spent. I don’t have the split in front of me, but the majority of that funding spent would relate to the BSF preparations not 2 tier.
    We all think the BSF hoops were ridiculous, but the system was what it was. Very few 3 tier supporters suggested that the council shouldn’t try for BSF, what was at dispute was what should be done with the money if the Borough got it. A 3 tier BSF proposal would have spent a similar amount of money.

    • KDev says:

      Cllr Headley,
      I agree with much of your comment on Bedford’s BSF spending whether 2 or 3-tier. However, there was a point when other, more cautious, LA took the view that spending should be on hold until the result of the national elections and subsequent policy changes were know.
      Bedford Borough ploughed on with BSF recruiting and expenditure regardless of the highly probable changes. It is for that that I and many others will blame the current Mayor for wasting at least a considerable part of that £486,000.

    • JJBLAKE says:

      At least if the councillors had listen to the people of Bedford and applied for money to invest in the existing 3tier system, Woodside would not be closing, a waste of a great school. They ignored warnings about holding of application until the general election. Now MarK Rutherford has porta cabins and two year groups going up this september from woodside. No doubt my daughter will have to have lessons in these portacabins which will be there for decades to come, like the ones at 2 local lower schools i know of.

  11. JamesD says:

    Cllr Headley,
    Does the following statement by Cllr Sawyer mean an end to the proposed reorganisation or just a delay until other means of funding it are investigated. If we do not get clarification very quickly Middle School staff will continue to leave in droves!

    “The decision taken by the Full Council on 16th November 2009 to pursue a comprehensive programme of restructuring to a two-tier system was dependent on the receipt of BSF funding. Full Council’s decision to pursue that programme as proposed does not stand, therefore, but we will not simply shrug our shoulders and accept the current situation, in which there is real scope for improvement.

    “The council will work on further plans to achieve the transformation of education in Bedford Borough and the improvement in standards which is needed and which we all want to see.”

  12. KDev says:

    To Cllr Sawyer,
    Fund our schools to the same extent as our statistical neighbours, then compare our educational attainment with higher funded LA.
    MK took 5 years and £200+ more than Bedford per pupil per year to get back to the attainment MK had with 3-tier.
    We are all in for swinging cuts, but Bedford already starts with a parsimonious allocation for education.

  13. Baldrick says:

    However Cllr Headley the rationale for change was inextricably linked to BSF in Bedford. Many suggested at the time of the vote that it would be better to wait and see whether the government hue changed before any moves were made on BSF (for 2 or 3 tier) sadly it was the gung ho approach of the Mayor and insistence of pressing on regardless that was to blame. If there was any doubt (and lets face it there was an enormous amount of doubt which as I recall you had at the full council meeting very eloquently) no process should have been undertaken to spend funds that were unlikely to be returned via a BSF funded programme.

    As Executive Member for finance perhaps you might enlighten us as to where the £480000 will come from now bearing in mind no funds will be gained from central government. This, on top of £10.9m worth of further cuts. Add to that the move to academy status for a number of schools in the LA and the children’s service budget looks like Swiss cheese. As a result of this debacle we may well be looking at the demise of the local authority. Whatever our views that cannot be a good thing for the schools that need outside agencies the most – sadly the LA will only have themselves and not a recognised flawed process to blame.

  14. Colin Matthews says:

    I have just read the full statement at and it is hardly an unequivocal renunciation of planning to go 2 tier. We absolutely need clarity at this time. If the Borough Council are still determined to restructure to a 2 tier system then they must say so and declare how they propose to fund and achieve this. If they are prepared to work within the existing structure then they must commit to this. It is not acceptable to sit on the fence and lie in wait for the first opportunity to pounce forward and bring in 2 tier through the back door. Such a process would be even more appalling than mixing one’s metaphors for dubious effect.

  15. Martin Hamilton says:

    I’m not an apologist for Michael Gove and indeed he does not appear to be passing on the blame for the mistakes in the list of projects stopped. However, he can’t have put the list together himself so it does suggest the incompetence may lie within Partnership for Schools. I suspect heads may roll in that quango if they don’t even know what stage the projects have got to within the morass of bureaucracy. The government has tried to give clarity to the situation. Now every council in the country will be hot-footing it to the secretary of state claiming that they are a special case. It is my view that they are not going to get any further clarity any-time soon. Partnership for Schools may well be abolished entirely. What we absolutely must not have at this stage is any more prevarication. The projects are dead. The government has prioritised paying teachers rather than building buildings. The message is that we can’t have both for the time being. Meanwhile the council has known for a long time that the money was unlikely to come so there is no excuse for delay in bringing forward its new plans for “transformation”. Whenever I see that word my heart now sinks slightly. Anyone else get that feeling?

    • jonathan parsons says:

      dear martin

      please bang heads together at the local goverment, and for the sake of my and many other parents, and lets work with what we have got and make it a model others will want to follow, as it is we are like the titanic just we havent quite hit the iceburg yet, but our council are carring on like we will miss it at the last moment, we need to reverse course now, as it is schools are losing staff at a cataclismic rate, soon we wont have an education system just a lot of housing estates

  16. JamesD says:

    Why am I not feeling elated:
    There is no guarantee that Glover and Co will not come up with the same plan just spread over many more years. Remember the previous Mayor selected all of these Officers for their total commitment to 2-tier.
    They would not accept any of the evidence given to them that there is no discernable difference between stable, well funded 2 or 3-tier systems. They would not accept the under funding evidence from DCSF when compared to our statistical neighbours. They would not accept that Bedford pupils at KS1 ended up in Sandy (Central Beds) for GCSE and that corrected our results – if it did not support 2-tier it was avoided or patronisingly dismissed. They are either fundamentalist 2-tier believers or are cynically trying to shrug off blame for the Bedford Schools performance that they were responsible for (“it’s the system not my advice and decisions at fault”).
    We still have no political leadership, integrity and honesty over this matter. Where is the Mayor and his deputy that spun so ardently at the last full Council decision on this matter. I remember being shouted at that the Officer’s report was full of facts and the promise of £340 million.

  17. Ed Thomas says:

    I completely understand Michael Headley’s reasoning behind the £486,000, but how much did it exactly cost for the borough to complete the non-consultation process???? It will also be very interesting to see the Night Mayor’s views on the alternatives i.e. academies, wasn’t it his selfish desire as a governor of John Bunyan to become the Bedford Academy the main reason, why he was so keen to lead us into this mess! As the Night Mayor is so keen on this method of transport, I say ‘on your bike, Dave!’ Please also fit the Brickhill poodle in the front basket.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      Ed I think you’re not being entirely fair on Dave. I think it was the former Mayor and Chief Exec that started the ball rolling. Now the tempting prize of the money has been whipped away he has the opportunity for a fresh start on the whole thing. We will now see whether his leadership will bring a constructive way forward or sew further division.

      • JJBLAKE says:

        You are right that it was the previous mayor who started this fiasco, however he was not involved in deciding to ignore all the concerns of the people of bedford, who backed to invest in the current system. It is this mayor that made bad decision to waste money. Although funding is not coming, it has been decided to continue with the closure of Woodside Middle, with yrs 7&8 moving up in september, And it meets its end next yr. What a sad loss to future children who would have benefited from the smaller classes like my daughter and many others who told their stories at SMS meetings and other consultations.

  18. JamesD says:

    Where is the political leadership in Bedford Borough?
    Councillors – Independents, Labour or Conservative (even most Lib Dems) you must see the folly of destabilising education in Bedford even further.
    Stop this Mayor and his out of control Officers now – back a long term plan to improve our 3-tier system or stay on the fence and see financial and educational bankruptcy for the Borough.

  19. Simon Eyre says:

    Suffolk cancelled phase 3 of its change to 2 tier last month. Phase 1 is almost complete but we’re trying to get phase 2 stopped as it isn’t properly underway yet. Saxmndham middle would close under the ph2 review, although it’s a good school that performs above national average.

  20. Baldrick says:

    Martin, whilst the previous mayor and chief exec started the snowball of doom, it was within the remit of the new mayor to refuse to continue in the light of the shifting financial landscape. Mayor Dave chose not to do so.

    What is clear is that both the current administration AND officers have a massive credibility gap to bridge now. To spend all that time destabilising the current system only to be left with it means they have to try and convince people they are committed to something they have never believed in. I think even Machiavelli would have struggled to do that!

    And I still see no reply from Cllr Headley about where the £486000 funding gap is going to be sourced.

    • Michael Headley says:

      sorry, that is straightforward. That was never coming from central government. It has already been paid.

      • Baldrick says:

        Except Cllr Headley whilst it has already been paid the BSF funds were designed to offset these costs in future years so that money is gone forever when it could have been spent to improve the educational lot for those across the borough.

  21. JamesD says:

    At last the Mayor has spoken:
    “The plan approved by the Full Council to re-organise the schools structure as a two-tier system was dependent on funding through the Building Schools for the Future programme. This will therefore not be going ahead, and the Council will not be pursuing a comprehensive restructuring”
    Note the qualification “comprehensive” does this mean that some bits of Bedford will go 2-tier? Woodside will remain closed and what happens to the Academy pyramid?
    Officers are reported as saying 2-tier will go ahead as the Borough sells land to finance the change.
    Mr Hodgson are your Officers totally out of control, it is time that the democratically elected representatives of Bedford Borough exercise some discipline and sense over these apparatchiks.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      Which officers and where are they being reported?

      • jonathan parsons says:

        dear martin,
        This is in Bedford On Sunday, but no officers named so you may have to ask questions, and i expect demand answers, also did you receve the email/letter i sent to most or the higher members of the councin including your self

      • JamesD says:

        Hearsay on my part from informants in whom I have every trust. Diehard 2-tier belivers are assuring their supporters that they have been told by officers that 2-tier will go ahead as Bedford will have plenty of land to sell. It looks like BoS has been told about the same statements.

  22. JamesD says:

    Why will it take to the end of term to rescind School Closure Notices?
    A single sentence email takes about 30 seconds!
    But our incompetent Mayor and his out of control officers will still try to close some schools – they dare not lose face and £486,000!

    • JJBLAKE says:

      Woodside Middle is still set for closure next year and yrs 7&8 are being moved up to Mark Rutherford in September. A loss of a fantastic school. They claim to be disappointed for the people of bedford, yet a majority did not back the plan. They never listened to advice regarding spening before the election. Instead of appologising they pass the buck. And continue condeming schools.

  23. JamesD says:

    So now there will be another flawed consultation report written by those same officers who conned the Councillors last time. How much more education money will be wasted by these incompetents. The Mayor will undoubtedly pay an electoral price in May 2011 for his mistakes but the officers who supplied all that false advice will just go on and on.
    Middle schools will continue to haemorrhage staff and fail to recruit, the school budgets will continue to be wasted and in September the same old faces will tell us how in their opinion and belief they know best for the children of Bedford.

  24. JamesD says:

    Today in the T&C Richard Fuller MP writes
    “We can achieve a leap forward if we listen more, and dictate less, to parents and teachers”

    but he then says with reference to a meeting with the Secretary of Sate for Education
    “We will also discuss the implications for the council decision to transition from 3-tier to 2-tier education and finding out how the new, less bureaucratic, less costly approach to building schools can help the council with its plans.”

    How can we keep our politicians honest? – one view to get elected then…………..
    Forget my vote in the next election Mr Fuller.

  25. JJBLAKE says:

    While looking for update with regards to schools, i found the earlier proposal for Woodsides closure which is quite differant from recent decision, i havent been able to see an proposal for the change in time for closure. The original proposal was to stop in takes in 2014 and moving yrs 7&8 up at the same time in sept 2015. however woodside is set for closure in sept 2011. quite a difference. talk about changing the goal posts.

  26. jonathan parsons says:

    as a possable footnote to this whole affair when pray tell is our council going to tell us about the housing estate planned for the current Putnoe Lower School site, i am lead to belive that about 600 or so houses of varios types are to be built including 30 percent social housing, and how much did thay get for the land, i belive about 10 mil is being the rough guide, still a bit short then Mr Mayor.

    • JJBLAKE says:

      I did not know this piece of information, so were they planning to condemn putnoe lower school aswell. if so what a huge mess. If this land has already been sold what does that mean for the lower school. As i understand it, the putnoe lower head is to overseer Woodside in its final year.
      Yep really sounds like they had our childrens education in mind. Where are future children going to be placed there are only limited spaces, maybe the Mayor and his followers are now planning to overcrowd the remaining schools and breach health & safety regulations. We need answers, and we want them now. You are a disgrace to this town its time you quit. Lets face it its not just schools this mayor wants to condem but other buildings that are our heritage.

  27. JamesD says:

    Well I thought it couldn’t get worse than the incompetent plan to force 2-tier school structure onto Bedford but it just has.
    The Council and its officers want to create a new plan and go through all the consultation, executive and full Council decisions before they remove closure notices on Bedford middle schools. Maybe by April 2011!
    Goodbye to more and more middle school staff without any hope of recruiting even newly qualified teachers for years. Even if you are OfSTED Outstanding – don’t think about becoming an academy because the officers have found a way to stop you.
    And who will make the new plan – the same incompetents that drew up the original hopelessly flawed set of proposals. Mr Chris Hilliard stated that there was no alternative in the 2-tier consultation document because the alternative was the 3-tier structure Bedford had. So why does the Mayor need more planning, biased consultation and cost? On the advice of these officers he has already wasted £486,000 – maybe he just wants to make up to the round £1/2 million.
    These are the same officers who have briefed behind closed doors, in secret conferences and made threats to lower schools to back 2-tier or else. Divide and rule and who cares about children’s education as we must get on with our great plan. Can we have an independent legal opinion on the officers’ insistence that the Mayor was wrong to say that closure notices would be removed by the end of term and that they must take another year.
    All admitted, not announced as policy, just as schools close for the summer, parents and Councillors go on holiday and by September it will all be too late to stop.
    Sorry about the rant but is there no elected representative, MP or Councillor, who will take this to the Secretary of State for Education.

  28. KDev says:

    So Sharnbrook Upper School (in federation with Lincroft Middle School, Harrold Priory Middle School and Margaret Beaufort Middle School)will become an Academy in less than a year. whilst Goldington and Alban Middle Schools, although equally “Outstanding” are prevented from becoming Academies by the Mayor’s inability to remove outdated, now irrelevant, closure notices until at least April 2011.

  29. JamesD says:

    Some good news at last – Bedford has capital allocated for the new Academy (BBC).
    Now let’s see how much capital and what happens.
    Planning permission was for 13 to 19 year olds (3-tier) with the proviso that if Bedford went 2-tier the new Academy would be 11 to 19 years. The Mayor has stated that Bedford will remain 3-tier.
    To all our local politicians remember that May 2011 is less than a year away!

  30. D Thomas says:

    Call me suspicious but why in the Executive’s report to the Full Council on 20th October is there a capital programme item of planned expenditure on “Three to two tier School Reorganisation”? It proposes £1.46million spent this year [2010/11], £1.74million [2011/12] and £2million [2012/13].
    While I’m at it, are the capital sums proposed for Biddenham Loop,Wixams, Broadmead, Elstow and Kempston Rural Lowers on the basis of them being lower or primary schools?

  31. KDev says:

    So Bedford Borough Executive is going to cut £3.5million from children’s services but spend £5million on the Mayor’s pet project of reorganising the schools in the Bedford Academy pyramid. To h*ll with the the children living in the rest of Bedford!

  32. JamesD says:

    Stop Press: Wed 14th July. The Mayor said at the Full Council meeting tonight that the closure notices on schools would be rescinded “by the end of term”.

    “Stop Press 2: Fri 16th July. The Council have now said there needs to be a statutory consultation period for 6 weeks before revoking the closure notices…(so the left-hand doesn’t appear to know what the right-hand is doing)…confidence-inspiring stuff indeed…”
    What is actually happening:
    Revocation notices will be published on Sunday 14 November 2010 in the Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper and objectors will have 6 weeks after that date to make their views known!
    So it will have taken 5 months to formalise the decision made on the 14th July 2010. During this time the 2-tier conspirators have continued with their efforts so £5 MILLION TO THE SCHOOLS THAT GO 2-TIER AND £3.5 MILLION OF CUTS TO CHILDREN IN THE REST OF BEDFORD TO PAY FOR IT!

  33. JamesD says:

    WAKE UP!
    Does anyone know what is going on in Bedford? I hear rummors that the Bidenham pyramid is going 2-tier, so is the Catholic pyramid and that Hastingsbury will be following them.
    Where has this come from – the council vote was for the plan with all of the BSF money. What mandate is there for a change to 2-tier? Do we live in a democracy or is this being done in closed meetings by the usual suspects?

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