Two-tier schools shake-up 'hugely exciting' for Biggleswade

Public consultation process will begin on June 23

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 10:54 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 10:56 am

The latest phase of a shake-up of schooling in Central Bedfordshire has been labelled "hugely exciting" for Biggleswade

A 14-week consultation process is set to begin later this month on planned changes to the educational landscape for schools in the town and the surrounding area.

Central Bedfordshire Council's Schools for the Future programme aims to move towards a two-tier primary and secondary model of schooling.

The debate took place at Central Beds Council HQ at Chicksands
The debate took place at Central Beds Council HQ at Chicksands

"This ensures sufficient school places are in the right location to improve our educational outcomes," Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark told an executive committee meeting.

"It will also facilitate more school-based special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision," she explained.

"The Biggleswade cluster is an area of high growth with current forecasts suggesting there'll be more than 3,000 new homes built by 2035, generating an extra 2,380 pupils."

Funding of £69.6m has been contractually agreed already with Homes England for the delivery of 3,066 homes in the Biggleswade area, according to a report to the June 8 executive.

"The housing infrastructure funding (HIF), which covers four projects locally, includes a contribution of £14m towards building a new 1,500 place secondary school on land east of Biggleswade," said the report.

"This project must be delivered for the 2024/25 academic year."

Councillor Clark, who's the executive member for families, education and children, said: "It's suggested within the proposals that Edward Peake Middle School would move into this new premises.

"Secondly, Potton Middle School and Potton Lower School need to amalgamate to create a primary school.

"This is because pupils have increasingly accessed schools in Sandy and Cambridgeshire in recent years, and numbers on the roll have fallen.

"This needs to happen in September 2022 as a first phase part of this plan.

"The consultation also includes three possible options for Dunton Lower School and Wrestlingworth Lower School on how they might move to primaries.

"Stratton Upper and Edward Peake would become secondary schools, and there would be one larger sixth form for the town," she added.

"The two schools are currently in talks about how this might be delivered."

Lawnside Academy would move into the vacated Edward Peake Middle School site.

Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Steve Watkins: "This plan will support the huge growth the town is seeing and will continue to endure over the coming years.

"The data is clear that two-tier brings better outcomes for our young people and so this transition is well overdue.

"As a governor of Lawnside Academy, I gather it's very excited about this proposal, as is the leadership team at Stratton Upper School.

"There are concerns about the pace of delivery. I hope the significant financial implications in the report don't cause further delay, which has resulted in some anxiety for Stratton Upper.

"But overall it's hugely exciting for the town and I welcome the start of this consultation."

Councillor Clark thanked him for his support, saying: "It's a very positive move for the town. A switch to primary and secondary will bring the benefits he outlines.

"This isn't a final plan. It's one we're going to consultation on. It's been very much worked up with the schools.

"We look forward to a really positive consultation and to then respond to the findings we receive."

The executive unanimously approved a recommendation for the public consultation process to begin on June 23.