We've agreed a new approach for the future of our schools
7 August 2018
Schools across the Central Bedfordshire area are actively working with us on long-term planning for education.
With some 40,000 new homes planned for the area over the next 15 to 20 years, it is clear that the increasing population of young families will expect their children to access high-quality education in good local schools.
We already plan for school places on a five-year basis and the current forecast is for 9,700 extra children to be entering the system over that period. But the Schools for the Future programme is a longer-term, coordinated and strategic plan to deliver the right schools in the right places, to meet future needs.
Historically, Central Bedfordshire has operated a three-tier model of lower, middle and upper schools. But schools have had, in recent years, more freedom to convert to academies (which are run by trusts and us) or to change their age ranges with more becoming primary and secondary.
Central Bedfordshire is no longer a three-tier system but a more mixed range of different school types. Not only can this be confusing, but also uncoordinated change can affect the viability of other schools in the local area.
So, we have been working collaboratively with all Central Bedfordshire schools and the Department for Education to understand what will be required up until 2035, which is the timeframe of the draft Central Bedfordshire Local Plan.
We've been working with schools in eight area-based groups, sharing their own preferences and ambitions in the context of increasing demands.
From this work, some shared commitments have been agreed, including a need to continually focus on delivering the best outcomes for children and to work in a more collaborative and joined up way. Today it was also agreed that, where schools want to move to a primary and secondary school model, they will be supported to do so.
The next step is for the schools to work together to agree a plan for their area and we've committed to supporting this change.
Our Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, Councillor Steve Dixon, said: "We are helping schools work together and plan together so that schools’ ambitions to change can fit in with the rest of their community and deliver the right school places for the future.
"This engagement has been driven by the need to plan for growth in Central Bedfordshire, but it has also highlighted a mixed and, often confusing, school landscape. However, a clear majority of schools in the area have either already converted to primary and secondary, or are open to exploring a change. So, we’ve made a commitment to support those ambitions and will continue to work with the school community to firm up more specific local plans over the coming months."