Schools fight change

PUBLISHED: 12:10 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 May 2010

PLANS to scrap the three-tier education system in Bedfordshire have come under fire from teachers, parents and pupils. Next Tuesday, the executive of Beds County Council will discuss a report by a special working group highlighting the advantages of adopt

PLANS to scrap the three-tier education system in Bedfordshire have come under fire from teachers, parents and pupils.

Next Tuesday, the executive of Beds County Council will discuss a report by a special working group highlighting the advantages of adopting a two-tier system for primary schools aged four to 11 and secondary schools 11-19.

Prime reasons for a change, says the report, is standards in Bedfordshire schools are not as high as they should be.

But there has been overwhelming opposition to change from teachers, parents and pupils who responded to a consultation document.

The report says secondary schools should maintain sixth forms and the preferred size of new primary schools should be two forms of entry although these may differ in urban and rural areas.

It is urged the proposed changes in structure and subsequent implementation be carried out in phases taking into account capacity and financial considerations.

On the standards in schools the report says: "Whilst Bedfordshire middle schools have generally received good or satisfactory OFSTED reports, a greater proportion of middle schools have been placed in special measures, have serious weaknesses or given notice to improve than either lower or upper schools.

"A picture has started to emerge of underachievement found within the three-tier system which is linked to pupils changing school twice at inappropriate ages."

Fundamental in successfully implementing a two-tier system is improving leadership in schools.

"The authority must ensure the best leaders are appointed to senior posts within Bedfordshire schools, particularly headships and they are able to deliver the required improvement in standards" says the report.

"Implementing a change in structure will not be easy. The authority must ensure it has the capacity to deliver change. It is also important to recognise there is much good work taking place in Bedfordshire schools which must not be lost."

The report concludes: "A change in structure would be likely to contribute to an improvement in standards.

"If a change is to be made to the structure, the decision on the county council's preferred option needs to be taken now."

But the report also reveals that in its consultation two thirds of parents said they wanted to retain the existing three-tier system. Nearly 90 per cent of those responding to a questionnaire in Bedfordshire Magazine also preferred the existing system.

A massive 80 per cent of pupils also wanted the retention of the current system along with 70 per cent of headteachers from lower schools and governing bodies while all responses from middle schools also did not want change.

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