Tier change may ‘leave wounds for decades’

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The wounds of changing from a three to two-tier school system in Sandy could last for decades according to a councillor.

Mark Versallion, speaking at Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive on Tuesday, warned there needed to be a co-ordinated approach to moving Sandy schools to the two-tier system.

“Without that, a lot of this will end in a very acrimonious state. The wounds ,I’m told, will not heal for decades is a potential outcome.”

Cllr Versallion was speaking as councillors discussed alterations to Robert Peel Lower School, St Swithuns Lower VC Schools in Sandy and John Donne C of E Lower School in Blunham, following consultations on moving from three to two tier systems.

The move, which will 
affect the schools from 
September this year, means building work needs to be 
carried out to accommodate the increase in pupils.

Cllr Versallion said a 
similar change in Dunstable and Houghton Regis had been difficult.

“Whatever happens, someone will be upset,” he said.

Cllr Steve Dixon, executive member for education and skills, said he was getting feedback from a lot of headteachers and governors who wanted to consider structural change.

“Sandy is a long-running saga,” he said. “We are now getting involved and helping them finish the ambitions they have set.

Schools preparing changes from three to two-tier 
education so far are Everton Lower School, Moggerhanger 
Lower School and Sandy 
Upper School, along with John Donne, St Swithuns and 
Robert Peel.

But Everton, Moggerhanger and Sandy do not need to make significant changes to their school premises to 
accommodate the change.

A consulation earlier this year for new development at the three schools largely met with support, although Robert Peel received nine objections with concerns about increased traffic and the change to two-tier from the current system.

Cllr Dixon said the council would act as a facilitator to bring all sides together and that a meeting for the schools commissioner, church diocese and Department for Education had already been arranged for this week.

“There will be a lot of change for people who may not understand the changes,” he said.

The executive approved the alterations which means the schools now have to manage their own building projects, apply for planning permission and will provide funding from existing school budgets.