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«Financial The pupil numbers are rapidly decreasing and the level of the education children are receiving is suffering due to the changes to local ...»

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Responses to consultation for Ashton CofE VA Middle School

Q4 - Reasons why you agree or disagree with the proposal to close Ashton CofE VA

Middle School

the school has falling numbers and cant make its mind up what it wants to be one minute


a primary school the next an upper school the site in the town is not suited to modern

education old building that require large amounts of money to keep in good order and

high running costs a drain on the finances of their budget


The pupil numbers are rapidly decreasing and the level of the education children are receiving is suffering due to the changes to local schools and the desire to change to a two tier system. Ashton is stuck in the past and it's reluctance to move with the other schools in the area have affected it and meant it has been left behind.

I've recently become aware of the possible closure of Ashton School. As A middle school, I Disagree hope I understand correctly that it will go back to being a secondary school, much as Dunstable Grammar school was. Please don't close yet another of Dunstable's old buildings as our town is becoming soulless.

I strongly disagree because Ofsted quotes this school as “Middle deemed secondary”.

Ashton Middle school is well known for having a caring, safe and supportive environment.

This school was built as a Grammar School in 1887 and although there have been many changes it has a huge amount of history and tradition which would be a great shame to lose. The intended specialist areas of Science and DT alongside Creative and Performing Arts is excellent because Ashton Middle School already has a fantastic music and drama departments who regularly produce outstanding concerts and performances. We also already have suitable and safe science labs with innovative teachers. I also question as to whether this is a done-deal and the council has already decided to close all middle schools regardless of our views. I have two children (now in there 20s) who went to Ashton Middle School, enjoyed it immensely and have gone on to university. I have no problems with mid dle schools. In addition, the letter you sent to the Yr6 parents WAS scaremongering and has heavily impacted on the numbers of pupils applying for a place at Ashton Middle School. The parents were given very little time to make their decisions and it was NOT made clear to parents that they could still transfer schools during the year.

The location is ideal because it is central, and easy to get to. The transport to the school is great. Ashton Middle School is one of the oldest schools in the area, with great standing in the community. What would happen to the building? It is the most popular school in Dunstable. It has a history of being oversubscribed. Why close it when you will only have to build new schools? There are new houses being built in the area, so where will all of those children go? Shutting a good school is not a good way to attract new people to Dunstable. Keep it open for the sake of the children and the town.

I think the council has already decided to close the three middle schools but i feel the council should re-consider shutting Ashton as it is an historic building. It cannot be knocked down. I don't really know what the leadership is like at Ashton but i am more concerned about the building.

I Disagree due to the following points:- 1. Removal of parental/child choice. 2. Ashton Middle is our Faith school which links with our local cumunity. 3. It is a central school to the community for all of Dunstable. 4. There has been an unfair/misleading/biased consultation process. 5. There is a political agenda 6. Local constituents do not want Ashton Middle school to close due to its links to local community and extensive historical links to the town. 7. The School buildings a listed and there are restrictions as to the use of this site for educational use. 8. Central Bedfordshire Council have manipulated the local Schools, Parents and Communities. CBC are clearly delivering their own plan, irrespective of our views as parents ( and constituents) and they are clearly not running a fair and active consultation. 9. Cllr Mark Versallion, by his own admission, was unable to change the three tier system when he was first in his post(2011) due to t he fact that the community did not want the changes. He has said that, as he was legally unable to force Schools to change, he started to look into 'local solutions' to emerge, which saw Schools make applications to change from three tier to two tier. This plan was helped along with the change of, the then failing Northfields Upper School, becoming All Saints Academy. A domino effect then occurred, where the schools were played off one another. Schools became unsettled and were concerned for their own viability, within Cllr Versallions plans.

(continued) (continued) They were under no illusion that they were fighting to survive.

Communication among the schools broke down as, one by one they began to seek out Academy status. Some schools huddled together, fearful for their school and became linked in partnerships. Others took on the views of the parents and students and decided to fight to remain. Confident of their place in the community, their support and viability.

This is p ossibly the point at which the local community became aware of the unrest gripping our children's Education in Dunstable. As Cllr Versallion's plans continued, it was the schools that chose to work with their communities, Ashton Middle School and Streetfield, who found themselves remaining as the only two schools who were not supporting CBC’s plans. They were then joined by Brewers Hill. Who, after securing Academy Status with Barnfield, were shockingly dumped by bad business decisions out of their control. Having worked through, what must have been a disruptive time for all, they also now found themselves against CBC’s plans for change. 10. All this change seems to have followed CBC’s plans for expansion of Houghton Regis (North). HR schools gained Academy Status. Plans for the new M1 link road and the building plans for the new homes were announced earlier than June 2012.

(continued)On 10 December 2013 the Council’s Executive agreed to invite Houghton Regis Academy to prepare and submit a business case for a proposed expansion of the school from its current capacity of 480 to 900 places, for children aged 11 to 16 years of age, plus a 6th form, for a phased implementation from September 2016. They have said that the commencement of the process will depend upon the build rate of new housing within the new development north of Houghton Regis. However, there are plans to create nearly 600 new places for the start of the academic year in 2015. When the development of HR (North) progresses, CBC have said that they plan to build brand new school(s) with in the development. This is to support their ‘New School places programme’, where a £100 million investment, to meet the demand of “.. a growing local population and with Central Bedfordshire an ever popular place and families choosing to put down roots here – we need more school places…”,% E2…as the council ensures that all children and young people have access to high quality schools.” (Quote taken from an interview with Cllr Mark Versallion). He also stated, in the Bedford Today on 10th Dec 2013, “With a growing local population it’s estimated that our school population will increase by over 6,000 over the next five years.

(continued) A key role for the council is to ensure that all our children have a place at a local school. “Our New School Places programme is a hugely important piece for work for us and we estimate that we’ll spend over £100m in the next five years on implementing it.

“At the heart of all our work around education is a commitment to do everything we can to help our children and young people reach their potential, both academically and in terms of their personal development.” Why are they planning to close good local schools if this is true? Will it help with a need to build a new school in the new development to meet a demand they are creating? The proposal to close the school states that there is an over supply of school places and yet the council has approved the expansion of Houghton Regis Academy from 480 to 900 students, this was approved about 2 months prior to the proposal to close Ashton Middle School. Central Bedfordshire Council states that there is a 63% over supply of middle school places and yet my child did not get in to my first choice middle school? Ashton was my second choice the nearest other schools that my child could have gone to are also both under consultation to be closed! So what choice do we have?, I have been very impressed with how Ashton are educating my child whilst under the immense pressure that is being placed on them by this situation that has been manufactured by the admissions process that the council has adopted/instigated.

(continued) 11. The three Middle Schools do not complete the change p rocess, as CBC and Cllr Versallion would like. Therefore, many people believe, misleading tactics were implemented via the admissions process for Middle schools in 2013/14, to make these schools financially unviable. 12. The new intakes from year 6 (from Primary to secondary) were due to start in Sept 2014. However, a letter, sent out to parents in the position of moving their children at that time, told parents that if they did not move their children to places in the new Secondary System from Sept 2014, their child would not have a guaranteed place. Also, parents of children who are currently in year 4, at the newly extended Primary schools, received no notification what so ever that they could move their children up to a Middle school at the end of year 4, as has happened every year previously. The admissions department stated that this is because; as these children are now currently in a primary setting (Schools have all changed in the last year), there is no structured move in place at the end of year 4, even though the Middle schools are still excepting children at this stage. Parents were not made aware of this. They were led to believe that the two tier change was complete and there was no other option.

(continued) 13. And just as people began to question this, CBC announced their plans to close the three middle schools. Therefore, creating panic yet again among the parents as to the safety and stability of their child’s Education. Concerned parents, wanting to make their child’s Educational pathway as stress free as possible, whilst trying to give them the best chance with their education, did what the Council told them to do. 14. And just to make sure there would be as few as possible applying for a place at the schools, CBC took their confirmed intake numbers date cut off on the 15th Jan 2014. This was before all places had been given and did not take into account children with 2 nd place choices.

Since cut-off date, the numbers at these schools have increased. This is important as many people may have applied for Priory Academy. This school is vastly over subscribed and therefore many children will require their 2nd choice place. 15. Suddenly, CBC announced that too few children have chosen to join the Schools in Sept, supporting their decision to close the schools. Their reason being, that the funding follows the pupil.

However, CBC have said that the funding isn’t received by the school until the following year. WHY? We are told by Councillor Mark Versallion, that the money follows the student, well then it should be provided to the school that the student actually goes to when they go there not one year later, the council knows how many children there are and know how large a budget they require so there should be no issue with directing it to the actual school that the student attends.

(continued) (continued)No wonder they have schools that become financially unviable.

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