The drive to move Bedford borough’s remaining schools to a two-tier system continues after Wootton Lower School proposals were approved.
The council’s Executive heard last week (22 November) that the majority of local authority areas in England operate a two-tier system of education.
This is where children attend a primary school from age four (Reception) to age 10 (Year 6), then a secondary school from age 11 (Year 7) to age 15 (Year 11).
These two phases match the National Curriculum, with Key Stages 1 and 2 corresponding to the primary phase, and Key Stages 3 and 4 corresponding to the secondary phase.
The portfolio holder for family, education and children’s services, councillor Jane Walker (Conservative, Clapham & Oakley) said: “The majority of the borough’s schools moved to two-tier primary/secondary school system between 2015 and 2019.
“At that time the Wootton and Stewartby cluster of schools decided not to move with the rest of the borough as they wanted to remain in a three-tier structure because of their cross-border relationship with Central Bedfordshire.
“However, in March this year, the previous executive decided the time was right for this final cluster in Bedford borough to actually move to two-tier.
“It is important it happens now because it’s actually being funded from 106 money [money from developers] which is obviously time-limited, so we can’t really wait.
“The reason why we might wait is because Central Bedfordshire, who were progressing their proposals to move to two-tier in that linked area, have put a pause on that.
“But we have to carry on because otherwise we would lose the money,” she said.
“It will mean that, particularly in the Wootton Village, which is obviously quite large, the children will all be [able] to walk to school all the way through their school life.
“It just makes sense for us now to rationalise and bring this final cluster in line with the rest of the borough schools,” she said.
The Executive unanimously approved the proposals to enlarge the capacity of the school from 600 to 840 from September 1, 2025.
And to extend the upper age limit of the school to establish a primary school with an age range of 4 years (reception) to 11 years (year 6) from the same date.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter