Have your say on changes to schools in Biggleswade and the surrounding area

This includes a move from the three-tier model to a primary/secondary model of education.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 5:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 5:38 pm

Central Bedfordshire Council has today launched a public consultation on proposed changes to schools in Biggleswade and the surrounding area, which includes a move from the three-tier model to a primary/secondary model of education.

This is part of the Schools for the Future programme, which is a long-term plan to: "raise education standards and make sure the Central Bedfordshire area has the right schools, in the right places, delivering the best education".

Biggleswade is an area which is expected to grow, with up to 3,351 new homes to be built by 2035, which would mean an estimated 2,613 additional school places will be needed. Most of this growth is east of Biggleswade, where around 1,500 homes are planned.

Stratton Upper School. Photo: Stratton Upper School.
Stratton Upper School. Photo: Stratton Upper School.

The proposals include the building of two brand-new schools, one primary and one secondary, located closest to this housing growth. The secondary school will be built with a £14million slice from the £69.6million of government funding that Central Bedfordshire Council successfully secured to provide much-needed new infrastructure and services to support the planned new homes. This funding is known as the Biggleswade Housing Infrastructure Fund and must be spent by March 2024, so the new secondary school is scheduled to be completed for September 2024.

Cllr Sue Clark, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said: “It’s rare that we get the opportunity to build a brand-new school, let alone two, so these would be fantastic additions to the community, to meet the demand for school places as Biggleswade and the surrounding area grows.

“Because of this we have been working collaboratively with schools in the area to help them plan for the future, with the aim of improving the educational outcomes for children and young people.

“Part of this is a transition to the primary/secondary model of education, from the current three-tier model. This would bring schools in the area in line with the rest of the country and provide simpler pathways for children and young people, who would change schools only once. This would ensure they are better placed to succeed as it allows secondary schools to have a five-year curriculum to lead up to GCSEs.

“And it would also enable schools to retain and attract the best teachers, as training is now focused on the primary/secondary model of education.”

While the majority of the proposed changes to schools in the area would not take place until 2024 at the earliest, there is an immediate need to address a decrease in pupil numbers at Potton Middle School, particularly in Years 7 and 8 where, in the 2020/21 academic year, 22 pupils were enrolled for Year 7, but this is set to reduce to four pupils for 2021/22. Therefore, it is proposed that Potton Middle School amalgamate with Potton Lower School to become a primary from 2022.

Cllr Clark added: “Parents and pupils are choosing two-tier schools in neighbouring Sandy and Cambridgeshire, and we need to adapt to this to ensure we have the right educational provision within Potton. We don’t want to see the middle school close when it can combine with the lower to create a thriving primary school.”

The proposals in full are:

Potton Middle School and Potton Lower School schools to amalgamate and become a primary

All existing lower schools and Biggleswade Academy to become primary schools

A new primary school to be built on land east of Biggleswade

Possible options for Wrestlingworth CofE VC Lower School and Dunton CofE VC Lower School, including amalgamation

Edward Peake CofE VC Middle School and Stratton Upper to become secondary schools.

A new secondary school to be built on land east of Biggleswade (this is a different site to the new primary on land east of Biggleswade). Edward Peake CofE VC Middle School would become a secondary school and relocate to this new school

Lawnside Academy moves to the vacated Edward Peake CofE VC Middle School site

There would be one sixth form open to pupils of both secondary schools (currently Stratton Upper and Edward Peake CofE VC Middle School).

Cllr Clark said: “We now want to hear the views of the local community before we make any decisions about the future of schools in Biggleswade and the surrounding area. The consultation will run for 14 weeks until September 28, 2021."