Future of middle schools in jeopardy

Streetfield Middle School acting head Dez Tinch
Streetfield Middle School acting head Dez Tinch

Public consultation is now set to start soon on the potential closure of three Dunstable middle schools, which have begun a battle for survival.

Central Beds Council’s executive committee decided yesterday, February 4, to start consultation on the possible closure of Ashton Middle, Brewers Hill Middle and Streetfield Middle schools.

A report said the schools “have falling pupil rolls and are unviable”. But any “viable” alternatives to closure would be considered.

Six weeks of consultation, from February 24, will include a series of public meetings, to be held in this area.

Executive councillor Mark Versallion pledged full consultation to give everyone the chance to have their say.

Last week, the Gazette told of how Ashton Middle is consulting on potentially becoming a secondary school.

Brewers Hill Middle will issue a consultation document to present its case to stay open.

Streetfield Middle has now held a special meeting to give parents first sight of a proposal to be put to the council.

The school says it is a case of “change, not closure”.

Streetfield’s acting head Dez Tinch was “thrilled” that parents gave unanimous support to its new proposal.

The school is proposing to become a primary school for pupils aged four to 11, with a nursery provision for children aged from six months to four-year-olds.

The school would be an “all-through primary” from September 2018. And it aims to retain its specialist provision for children with autism.

Age range changes at a number of Dunstable schools are widely seen as leading to a shift from a three-tier education system, with lower, middle and upper schools, to two tiers, primary and secondary.

But Mr Tinch wrote to parents: “The closure of middle schools does not mean the closure of Streetfield.”

He told the Gazette: “I know there will be many parents and colleagues who, like myself, will be saddened that it has come to this.

“But the truth is that we made our case and our argument and we have lost it.

“We cannot allow our children and parents to suffer from the crossfire of political rhetoric and point scoring and so on.

“It’s time to be pragmatic and do what is right for the children and that is a unique purpose-built, fully equipped state-of-the-art primary school, with facilities found nowhere else in Central Bedfordshire or Luton, with well-qualified staff excited to greet the challenges ahead.”

The Streetfield acting head envisages a transition period to allow pupils to complete their middle school experience, if they wish.

He said: “In 2018, we will be able to provide a complete journey from six months-19 years on one campus, in partnership with Manshead Secondary School. It’s a win-win situation for the children and parents of Dunstable.”

> People will be able to voice views on the council’s consultation online or via paper documents. Meeting details will be at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/admissions. Documents will be available via www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/consultations. Feedback goes to an overview and scrutiny committee, then to the executive on May 27. If the council decides to pursue closures after consultation, there will be further consultation, with final decisions expected in August.