Although there was a time, back in the 1970s, when a three-tier school system was the norm in England, most parts of the country have long since moved to the two-tier (primary and secondary) model, which aligns neatly with the Key Stages outlined in the National Curriculum. Now Central Bedfordshire, one of the last councils to retain its lower, middle and upper schools, has announced that parents and other interested parties are to be consulted over a final move to the two-tier system.

With the huge housing expansion in the area, schools have already started changing their age ranges to meet demand, for example with Etonbury becoming an extended secondary school (still admitting children in Year 5, but then keeping them after Year 9, when they would traditionally have moved to upper school – Etonbury currently takes pupils through to GCSE at the end of Year 11). 

The area around Shefford and Stotfold will continue to grow: it is expected that a further 5,400 new homes will be built over the next 10 to 15 years. Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) anticipates that a further 3,500 school places will be required. CBC proposes to move to a two-tier system in order to help meet this demand. All schools in the area agree in principle with the plan, but no decisions have been made yet.

The proposal is that the change to two-tier will occur in three phases. Phase 1 (2021–22), sees Henlow, currently a middle school, become a secondary school and its feeder lower schools become primaries. In Phase 2 (2023–24), all other schools convert to primary or secondary – this includes Fairfield Park Lower School, Etonbury and Pix Brook. Phase 3 (2023–28) covers new schools and expansions in response to further growth in the area.

CBC’s Executive Committee discussed these proposals on 8 October and the next stage is a 12-week public consultation, which will start after the October half term. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to have your say on the future of schooling in this area!