Switch To Two-Tier Put On Hold

Bedford Borough Council has confirmed that plans to transform the town’s education structure have been put on hold after cuts in Government funding.

It means the area’s Middle schools, which had been at risk of closure, will remain open for the time being.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove announced on Monday that 719 school rebuilding projects across the country would not now go ahead, whilst a further 123 academy schemes are to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

In a statement to MPs in the House of Commons he said: "The Building Schools for the Future scheme has been responsible for about one third of all this department's capital spending.

"But throughout its life it has been characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy."

Council chiefs in Bedford had made it clear that without BSF funding, the proposals to switch from the current system of Lower, Middle and Upper schools to a two-tier structure of Primaries and Secondaries would not go ahead.

"We saw BSF as a once in a generation opportunity to transform not just our buildings, but I think much more importantly to improve educational standards across the Borough", said David Sawyer, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Bedford Borough Council.

"On behalf of teachers, families and children, I’m very sad this has happened."

He added: "We 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.

"The underlying fact is that Bedford Borough’s schools need investment as part of efforts to raise standards. We will fight tooth and nail for that investment for current and future generations of children and young people in Bedford Borough, and I look forward to the chance to make the case for the borough as part of the Government’s new review of capital investment in schools."

Richard Fuller, the Conservative MP for the town criticised the Building Schools for the Future scheme labelling it "a bureaucratic nightmare".

He said: "Bedford Borough Council has spent over £400,000 preparing for the move from three tier to two tier education, despite warnings last year about the uncertainty of BSF funding being available and advice to save the money until there was more certainty.  We can’t get that money back, but we can now find other ways to move forward."

"School Governing boards are now leading the way, with seventeen schools in the Borough applying to become academies and there is a great deal of interest in setting up free schools. These are exciting opportunities if the Council will be open to the alternatives presented and I look forward to working with the Council to present the best case to the Secretary of State."

Meanwhile campaigners who fought to save the Borough’s Middle schools said the news that funding for the area’s schools had been cut was "bittersweet".

Tony Dadd, co-ordinator of the group Save Middle Schools said: "Uncertainty is never good for anybody in education.  Parents and teachers want certainty over the medium term.  We need to get everybody together to sit down and talk about planning a future with our education system as it stands and how we improve it."

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