MP warns Bedlington parents face no choice on potential two-tier education move
Disgruntled parents have not been given a choice on a potential move from a three-tier to a two-tier educational system in a Northumberland town, an MP has warned.
Northumberland County Council has agreed to carry out a consultation on Whitley Memorial CE First School and Bedlington West End First School extending their age ranges from September 2020.
The Bedlington Partnership is predominantly a two-tier system of primaries and secondaries, while these two first schools and Meadowdale [Middle] Academy remain as a three-tier set-up.
Bedlington Academy and St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy will only accept Year 7 pupils from September 2020, and Meadowdale is now consulting on becoming a primary from this September.
These circumstances could see the complete abandonment of the three-tier system, and Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, says parents have been “denied the opportunity” to oppose the potential move.
Mr Lavery said: “We all understand the pressures that have been placed on all schools due to central Government cuts with those in Bedlington losing more than £1m in real terms from their budgets since 2015.
“The decision in practice means that local schools will be forced into direct competition which can only have a negative effect on the schools themselves and ultimately on our children’s education.
“I have been in communication with the schools involved over the past weeks and months to better understand the situation. And I’ve met with officers of the local authority to discuss their response.
“Because of the way this has happened, many parents in Bedlington have been denied the opportunity to comment on the move from a three to a two-tier educational system. Now, there’s no alternative.”
The local authority has responded to Meadowdale consultation by saying it does not support the move, as it would create additional surplus primary places within the partnership and have a knock-on impact on council-controlled Whitley and West End first schools.
Council officers organised a meeting to discuss the best way forward and it was agreed to hold a joint consultation, before Meadowdale ‘went their own way’ and received approval to become a one-form-entry primary school from September 2020.
Mr Lavery added: “The political drive from the government towards academisation has meant issues like this have cropped up across the country.
“It simply cannot be right, whatever the circumstances, that the government can make a decision on an academy that puts at risk other local schools.”
A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “Following a request from the local schools to consult on extending their age ranges, the council’s cabinet agreed to facilitate a consultation process.
“We are particularly keen to hear the views of the whole Bedlington community on the proposals, which has been devised by the schools themselves.”