Please note: This site covers the period that I was the Member of Parliament for Bedford from May 2010 to June 2017. I am now the Member of Parliament for North East Bedfordshire. Please visit my new website: www.richardfuller.co.uk for the latest news and information.
The real impact of the Government’s overblown borrowing hit schools in Bedford and Kempston last week.
Speaking in the House of Commons, local Conservative MPs Alistair Burt and Nadine Dorries continually challenged the Minister to guarantee the promised funding for Bedford Borough Upper Schools.
This is critical as any change from three to two tier will require major construction; expenditures that our local council cannot afford. The Minister failed to provide the guarantee – undermining comments from local Labour MP that “The Government has committed to BSF capital investment…”
So where does this leave us?
First of all, Alistair and Nadine have done a huge service for local parents by putting the Minister on the spot and clarifying what many of us suspected all along; that the state of the country’s finances made any guarantees of funding dubious at best.
Second of all, a mighty hole has been blown in the Borough Council’s strategy for school reorganization. They led from the front with the carrot of oodles of cash from the Government, despite the efforts of many head teachers at the public meetings, rightly in my opinion, to focus on competing visions of how our children would be educated in the two systems and the plusses and minuses of each.
This strategy has now failed and the Council needs urgently to reassess where we go from here.
I think the Council can now only take a vote in principle for a move to two tier. It would be unwise to embark on reconstruction without the funding in place. We don’t want a generation of kids educated in portakabins on construction sites, but we should set a direction for the future.
Bedford is already an evolving landscape of educational choices with educational trusts focused around upper schools at Wootton, Sharnbrook, Hastingsbury and Mark Rutherford and also with the new Academy at John Bunyan. The excellent performance of Goldington Middle School has been too much overlooked in the “tiers” debate. All these schools should be free to prosper, whatever the decision over tiers.
The next Conservative government will greatly expand choice in education – allowing greater freedom for local parents, charities and others to set up schools and play a much more direct role in how their children are educated. Real Parent Power – Real Choice – Excellent Teachers. In these, rather than false cash hopes for fancy buildings – there is real hope for the future of education in Bedford and Kempston.