Chiltern Learning Trust has begun consulting with parents over a possible merger of Daubeney Academy and Kempston Academy.
Formerly part of the Challenger Multi Academy Trust, both Daubeney Academy, which has pupils aged 11 to 16, and Kempston Academy, which has pupils aged 11 to 18, joined Chiltern Learning Trust (CLT) in May 2022.
Following a review of pupil capacity and future use, CLT is now proposing a merger of the two schools, which could see Daubeney Academy closed and Kempston Academy becoming a 1,500-place secondary school with 300 spaces for each year group.
CLT says it would result in no loss of secondary school places to Bedford or the Kempston area.
In a letter to parents seen by the Bedford Independent, Adrian Rogers, CEO of CLT wrote, “I know you will be concerned about how this proposal affects your child, however we are proposing to amalgamate Daubeney Academy with Kempston Academy in a phased process and minimise any impact on current children in the school.”
Parents commenting on social media say they fear Kemspton Academy is being “mothballed” so the land can be “sold for housing”.
However, in a media release sent to this newspaper, they cite “long-term investment” and “accommodation issues” into education for the area as the reason for the proposed merger.
“Daubeney Academy was originally built as a middle school for 480 pupils, but when the school changed its age range and became a secondary school serving 600 children it gave rise to accommodation issues which have not been able to be resolved through central or local government funding,” said a spokesperson for CLT.
“Pupils would benefit from having a breadth of choice and opportunity in a larger secondary school model with the physical buildings and facilities to enable this.”
A seven-week consultation about the merger will begin on Monday, 25 September 2023 and run until Monday, 13 November 2023.
Parents, carers, and community members will be sent details of how to respond to the consultation and invited to share their views on the plans.
A meeting for parents and carers will also be held in early October at Kempston Academy where CLT will talk through their proposals and answer questions.
Adrian Rogers, CEO of Chiltern Learning Trust, added, “We believe that by bringing these academies together, we can offer pupils a path to a better education, a wealth of enriching opportunities, and a host of experiences that will prepare them for a successful future.
“We know each school has its own individual communities with close attachment to the history and character of the schools.
“We have explored all options that would have allowed Daubeney to stay open but given the constraints of the site and future demand for secondary school places in the area, we have been able to find a viable solution.
“All members of the Bedford and Kempston communities are invited to participate in the consultation process and we would very much value their views. Please participate in the consultation.’’