Consultation on switch to two-tier education in Leighton Buzzard is put on hold, but will be top priority once coronavirus crisis is over

The second stage of a shake-up of schooling in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade has been put on hold because of the coronavirus crisis.

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 24th April 2020, 1:46 pm
Updated Friday, 24th April 2020, 1:48 pm

But a consultation process over the first phase finished as scheduled on April 15. The work is part of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Schools for the Future programme, which includes switching from three-tier to two-tier primary and secondary education.

Current forecasts suggest there will be an extra 24,672 pupils by 2035, as CBC expects to provide 43,000 new homes by then, according to a report to the executive.

“The expected growth has significant implications with regard to pupil place planning, as the council has a statutory duty to ensure that there are enough school places for children living in Central Bedfordshire,” said the report.

Education in Leighton Buzzard will be subject to a consultation once the pandemic is beaten

An update was presented to the committee by Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark because of the impact of the coronavirus crisis and restrictions imposed by social distancing.

“We’ve decided to postpone starting any consultations on new school cluster plans until after the national emergency and some normality has returned to our lives,” she explained.

“This includes the Leighton Linslade phase two cluster, and we informed the relevant ward members about that.

“It also includes the future cluster plans for Cranfield and Biggleswade.

“The timetable to bring forward these three cluster plans will be rescheduled, in consultation with the schools, and will depend on how long the coronavirus situation lasts. But I can ensure the Leighton Linslade ward members the first cluster plan we bring forward after the emergency will be the Leighton Linslade phase two."

Leighton Linslade phase one involves the schools in the Fulbrook pyramid covering the Woburn Sands area and surrounding villages.

She said: “Regarding the proposal to merge the three lower schools Husborne Crawley, Ridgmont and Woburn, we are clearly hearing they can’t make an informed decision until the proposed location of a new school is known. We’ve considered this feedback and think it’s fair and reasonable.

“It’s our intention to recommend to Executive that we consult again later in the year on the specific proposals which affect those three village schools.

“We will do this with details of the preferred location of the new school.”

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling asked that a Leighton Linslade phase two consultation did not happen over the summer holidays.

Cllr Clark replied: “We will not run a consultation during the summer holidays. I can assure you about that.”

The Executive meeting informally via Skype agreed a series of advisory recommendations, including the delay to the second phase of the Leighton Linslade cluster.

It also approved the next steps to provide sufficient special education needs and disabilities (SEND) resources in part of Central Bedfordshire.

Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker asked: “What efforts are being made to include schools outside our authority to help meet our SEND provision, such as Milton Keynes?”

Councillor Clark responded: “Quite a lot of our children do go to special schools in neighbouring authorities where it makes sense, for example Bedford.

“When special schools were set up it was across Bedfordshire county and not Bedford, Central Beds and Luton.”

Do you agree with a move to a two-tier system? Email [email protected].