Middle schools closure a step closer after council decides to progress plans

Parents, pupils and GMB union members attended the meeting to oppose planned closures
Parents, pupils and GMB union members attended the meeting to oppose planned closures

Three Dunstable middle schools now have just over two months to save themselves after Central Beds Council progressed plans for their closure yesterday.

At a council executive committee meeting, it was agreed that Ashton, Brewers Hill and Streetfield schools had not provided “robust and viable” business cases to convince councillors that they had financially secure futures.

The schools have been told that if they are able to present a viable business case for the future before August 19 orders for closure can be rescinded.

Central Beds will now issue statutory notices outlining the plans to close the three schools, opening a four-week consultation.

If current plans progress the Brewers Hill site could become an academy for four- to 18-year-olds from September 2015.

The intention to close the schools comes due to falling numbers of pupils, with Central Beds projecting that in September 2015 just 278 of 1,620 available places at the three schools will be filled.

Earlier this month the council concluded that a consultation on plans to close the three schools had “not identified viable alternative options”.

At yesterday’s meeting a separate proposal from Ashton Middle to change the school’s age range from nine to 13 years to 11 to 16 years was also dismissed.

Cllr Mark Versallion, executive member for children’s services, issued doubt over proposals for the adapted school, which would have been named Frances Ashton C of E Secondary.

He said: “I am not in the business of closing schools, but I feel the business case (presented) does have holes in it.

“It is expected that huge growth (in population) will not occur near Ashton and I agree with the parent who said that local schools need to be for local children.”

Dunstable Icknield councillor Nigel Young said that he was “disappointed” Ashton had not brought forward a proposal to remain a middle school and said that any move to become a secondary may see a fall in demand at Queensbury, Manshead and All Saints Academy.

The recommendation to press ahead with plans for the closure of Ashton, Brewers Hill and Streetfield was unanimously passed by members of the executive committee.

Cllr Versallion argued that “doing nothing is not an option” as each of the schools “could go bankrupt in six months’ time”.

He added: “I will not duck making a difficult decision, the schools will be bankrupt if we do not act.”

> For the full story see today’s Dunstable Gazette