Education to be a priority again for Central Bedfordshire Council

Central Bedfordshire Council. Picture: Daniel Wilson

Central Bedfordshire Council. Picture: Daniel Wilson - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Housing provision for key workers in Central Bedfordshire is set to be more of a priority following the council’s admission its educational support team was “run down” in recent years.

Luring staff to the area and retaining them is one of the issues identified during an overhaul of the local authority’s approach towards schools.

“Sadly among all our successes, pupil attainment is not one of them,” Toddington Conservative councillor Tom Nicols told an executive meeting on Tuesday.

“It’s an undeniable fact that we’re not at the top of the list. We’re not even close to it,” he said. “We’re pretty much at the bottom compared to neighbouring authorities.

“The deprivation of parts of Central Bedfordshire is not an excuse, as there’s deprivation in other authorities and they do very well.

“It’s about our academic attitude for around a decade, with the creation of academies that we don’t have to provide educational support,” he added.

“We have rather dropped the baton. The educational support team was run down.”

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Central Bedfordshire Council has “failed to develop an informed identity” making it an attractive place to work, according to Mr Nicols – who chaired a scrutiny inquiry into pupil attainment.

He cited Milton Keynes and Hertfordshire as areas which are well promoted, while Luton and Bedford are prominent too.

He said: “In Central Bedfordshire, we have lost our identity over the years. We need to drive up the area as a place to go to as a teacher. We also need to focus on key worker housing in the authority and try to strengthen that approach.

“If teachers are here for five years they are likely to stay. It’s an attractive place to live.”

The role of parents was a clear issue from the scrutiny report, councillors were told.

“To a degree, we’re the victims of our own success,” said Mr Nicols. “Employment opportunities here have to rate among the best in the country.

“Perhaps that doesn’t create a sense within parents that if they don’t push their children the outcome will be pretty grim.”

The executive committee was asked to accept the scrutiny report, with an eight-week period until they consider it in detail.

Conservative councillor Steve Dixon, who represents Stotfold and Langford, acknowledged the local authority has been backing off over the years regarding education.

“We will potentially have to prioritise some of these issues in the report,” said Mr Dixon, who is the executive member for families, education and children.

He advised councillors they may have to consider phasing in the various actions needed to turn things around.

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