Pressing ahead with the merger of two Bedfordshire schools is “the logical thing to do”, while an overall review takes place around education provision for the Biggleswade area, a meeting heard.
But progress has stalled to enable planned growth for the area to be reconsidered and to ensure the local education blueprint remains viable.
The move towards a two-tier primary and secondary model of schooling to raise educational standards is being rolled out in phases by the local authority.
CBC’s executive agreed to authorise the move to statutory notice for the closure of Potton Middle, and a change of age range for Potton Lower to become a primary school for September 2023.
Potton Middle School has seen a drop in pupil numbers in years 7 and 8 because nearby clusters have changed their age ranges already, according to a report to CBC’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee.
Conservative Biggleswade South councillor Mark Foster, who chairs the committee, said: “We anticipated it wouldn’t be too contentious.
“With the support this change has had within the schools and the ward members, this seems to be a straightforward decision.
“It’s a logical thing to do, which members are happy about. That tells us we’ve made the right choice.”
Interim director and deputy director of children’s services Sarah Ferguson explained: “Members will have considered previously the outcome of the ‘Have your say’ consultation on the Biggleswade cluster.
“That was subject to the recommendations of this committee and a decision by the executive to agree we’d progress with a statutory consultation for Potton Lower and Potton Middle, which is the basis of the report brought to you today.
“You’re being consulted as consultees in the statutory process prior to the final outcome of that consultation going back to executive in June.”
Up to 43,000 new homes are expected in Central Bedfordshire by 2035, with the adoption of the Local Plan, according to a report to the committee.
“This level of growth has significant implications regarding pupil place planning as the council has a statutory duty to ensure sufficient school places are provided locally,” said the report. “Current forecasts suggest there’ll be an extra 24,672 pupils by 2035.
“There’s a need to address declining numbers in some schools as a result of those in surrounding areas already having transitioned to a two-tier model.
“Officers were seeking a broad view from the local community in order to shape the final proposals.
“As part of the programme, Potton Lower and Potton Middle are to be amalgamated to become Potton Primary.
“The results of the public consultation were shared with the committee for review and comment in January, ahead of being presented to the executive.”
A statutory notice is required for the closure of Potton Middle, and the change of age range of Potton Lower to become a primary school for September 2023.
The plan would be “to use the buildings and infrastructure of both sites as far as required”, added the report.