Two-tier education change
** NOVEMBER 2023 UPDATE **
On 8 November 2023 Central Bedfordshire Council published an Autumn Announcement to give an update following its decision in June to pause the Schools for the Future programme in some areas, including the Shefford and Stotfold cluster.
Have you got a question about the reorganisation of education in Central Bedfordshire into a two-tier system? We've tried to answer some of the more common queries you may have below.
If you can't find the answer you're looking for please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll respond to your questions.
At the bottom of this page, you can also find copies of our BEST Two-Tier Update newsletters to view and download.
WHAT IS TWO-TIER EDUCATION?
It’s the system of education that most of the UK operates on, with primary schools for children aged 4-10 (Reception and Years 1-6) and secondary schools for ages 11 and over (Years 7-11).
What is the education system in Central Bedfordshire?
Historically, Central Bedfordshire has followed the three-tier system – lower schools for children aged 4-8 (R/Years 1-4), middle schools for those aged 9-13 (Years 5-8) and upper schools for older pupils (Years 9-11, plus sixth form provision).
However, schools are now allowed to change the age range they cater for and, with many schools now outside of local authority control, this has led to a mixture of different types of schools across the wider Central Bedfordshire area.
WHY are things changing?
The ability of schools to be able to change their age ranges, effectively taking on pupils from other schools at a different stage in their learner journeys, can be problematic. Those other schools could become unviable and be at risk of closure, as funding is based on pupil numbers.
A mix of different school systems in the same local authority area, as is the case in Central Bedfordshire, can also be confusing for parents.
To tackle this, and to cater for growth in the area, Central Bedfordshire Council has launched its Schools for the Future programme.
WHAT is the schools for the fuTURE PROGRAMME?
The strategic plan was designed to deliver the right schools in the right places as the area grows in the next 15-20 years. It is estimated that around 43,000 new homes will be built in the area by 2035 – meaning thousands more school places will be needed.
To help create local plans, and to support collaboration, schools have been organised into eight ‘cluster’ areas. The council is working with each cluster to consider growth implications and better understand the landscape in each area.
WHAT cluster are best schools in?
Eight of BEST’s 10 schools are in the Shefford and Stotfold cluster – Campton Academy, Etonbury Academy, Gothic Mede Academy, Gravenhurst Academy, Langford Village Academy, Robert Bloomfield Academy, Pix Brook Academy and Samuel Whitbread Academy.
Lawnside Academy is in the Biggleswade cluster, while St Christophers Academy is in the Dunstable and Houghton Regis area.
Central Bedfordshire Council is working separately with each cluster on plans where required, starting with the Shefford and Stotfold cluster.
What is going to happen to best schools?
Shefford and Stotfold cluster: Langford Village Academy converted from lower to primary in September 2021.
There is currently no agreed plan for the seven other BEST schools in the cluster.
Biggleswade cluster: Lawnside Academy will become a primary school and, in a revision to original plans, remain on its current site.
Dunstable and Houghton Regis cluster: Schools in the area including St Christophers Academy are already able to provide enough school places to cater for the known housing growth.
when are changes due to be made?
Langford Village Academy became a primary school in September 2021, alongside the conversion of Henlow Church of England Academy, a middle school, to secondary status.
In the original plans, the seven other BEST schools in the Shefford and Stotfold cluster were set to move to two-tier in September 2023.
In revised plans announced by Central Bedfordshire Council in April 2022, a new target date for transition was set at September 2025.
In CBC's Autumn Announcement in November 2023, Cllr Hayley Whittaker confirmed there was no current date set for transition, but that it would not take place in 2025 or 2026.
Lawnside Academy and the rest of the Biggleswade cluster are due to convert in September 2024.
What is BEST’s stance on the planned changes?
We have always been broadly supportive of Central Bedfordshire Council's plans to move to the two-tier system.
This support was initially conditional on five pledges being met, and in 2021 we voiced our frustrations at delays to the plans for the Shefford and Stotfold cluster.
Now, the announcement of revised proposals means we once again have clarity about the future and renewed optimism that real progress can be made on a full cluster transition to the primary-secondary model.
** We will be considering the impact of the June 2023 programme pause and November 2023 update on our schools and our response in due course. **
how can I find out more about the plans?
We publish a regular BEST Two-Tier Update newsletter to keep parents, staff and the wider community in both the Shefford and Stotfold and Biggleswade clusters informed about the latest developments. You can read and download copies of all issues below.
On a more local level, our schools will also be keeping their pupils and families updated with regular tailored information. You can contact them directly via your usual channels with any specific queries.
You can also visit Central Bedfordshire Council’s dedicated website at www.schoolsforthefuture.co.uk