Villagers fighting to save Dunton and Wrestlingworth lower schools denied separate consultation process over their future

Central Beds Council wants to move to a two-tier primary and secondary model of education, under its Schools for the Future programme.

By Euan Duncan
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 5:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 5:14 pm

Villagers fighting to save two rural Bedfordshire schools have been denied a separate consultation process over their future.

Instead, three options are on the table for Dunton CofE VC Lower School and Wrestlingworth CofE VC Lower School, a meeting heard.

A ‘Save Dunton and Wrestlingworth village schools’ petition was presented to Central Bedfordshire Council’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee in April.

Central Beds Council wants to move to a two-tier primary and secondary model of education

The petition asked for these schools to be consulted on separately from the Biggleswade cluster because of the specific needs in that area, councillors were told.

The council wants to move to a two-tier primary and secondary model of education, under its Schools for the Future programme.

Deputy director of children’s services Sarah Ferguson updated the committee on a Have Your Say consultation for the Biggleswade cluster.

“We’re proposing all lower schools in Biggleswade and the surrounding area will become primary schools,” she said.

“The first of three options for Dunton and Wrestlingworth is both schools would stay on their current sites and become primary schools.

“The second is to amalgamate the schools on the Dunton site and create a one-form entry primary school.

“And the other is to amalgamate and relocate both schools to a new site on the land east of Biggleswade.

“The site constraints for those schools suggest we need to know whether it’s possible for them to remain there.

“Biggleswade Academy, which is currently a middle school, would become a primary.”

The housing infrastructure fund (HIF) for several projects in the Biggleswade area includes a new secondary school east of the town, with a £14m Homes England contribution towards that project, she added.

“Edward Peake Middle School would move to the land east of Biggleswade and become a secondary school, while Stratton Upper would be a secondary school as well.

“There’s also a need to resolve the future of Potton Middle School. And we’ve an agreement with Homes England, which includes a 16- to 18-year-old element, around the principle of sixth form provision for the town.”

Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark said: “When the petition was presented we couldn’t comment on it because it was ahead of this consultation.

“We’ve developed the three options being consulted on for these two schools responding to the high level of public interest to the rumours around them.

“We’ve addressed the concerns being raised by the petitioners. Every school has informed its stakeholder group about this consultation.

“Sarah has been to Biggleswade Town Council. All the schools have been extremely involved in developing the options in front of us.

“It would be difficult to have a separate consultation about these Dunton and Wrestlingworth because they’re part of this family of schools in the area.

“We’ve met the requirements of the petition,” added councillor Clark, who’s deputy council leader and executive member for families, education and children.

“We’ve listened carefully and adjusted the consultation on the back of what we heard.

“As with the earlier clusters, we’ve changed things from the feedback before then going to statutory consultation.”

Parent governor representative Lorraine King said: “Can I suggest we agree with the steps taken and request it’s clear in that feedback what the outcomes were for these two schools to see how residents’ views were taken into account?”

Conservative Biggleswade South councillor Mark Foster, who chairs the committee, agreed saying: “That’s the right approach.”

Describing it as “an informal consultation” process, Ms Ferguson explained: “The recommendations would come back to the executive ahead of a formal statutory consultation in 2022, if CBC decides to proceed with the proposals.”