‘Three into two’ is future for Berkhamsted schools

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IT’S your last chance to have a say on sweeping changes to children’s education.

Herts County Council agreed on Monday to proceed to the next stage of plans to switch Berkhamsted’s schooling from a three to a two-tier system.

If passed, the plans – which carry an estimated cost of £9.6m for the education authority – could be in place by September next year for some schools.

Ashlyns head James Shapland said: “This is a good thing for the education system in Berkhamsted and its long-term future. I am very pleased.”

The idea was originally mooted as a way to solve a severe shortage of reception school places in the town.

Earlier this year, everyone in the area was asked to vote for or against the change, and whether it should be chosen over a plan to build a new first school.

During the 12-week consultation, 81 per cent of respondents – including all 10 schools in the area – backed the tier change.

Rachel Swaffield, headteacher at Bridgewater Middle School in Bridle Way, Berkhamsted, said: “I think now the results have come in, we need to get on with it.”

The change will create 78 new reception places if it is given the go-ahead at a meeting in September.

People who live in Berkhamsted have until then to make their final submissions on whether or not the plans should go ahead.

Mr Shapland said: “I do not think there’s ever a done deal in life on these kind of things. Until the fat lady sings, we should not expect anything.”

The change would free up government funding for his school, as well as allowing his larger building to help plug the gap in spaces for students.

Frances Button, council cabinet member for education and skills, said: “This is a really important time for schools in Berkhamsted and we are pleased to be supporting this schools-led initiative.

“I appreciate that this will bring a period of change for some families in the area, and the transition arrangements will be very carefully managed.

“Looking ahead, I am confident the right decision has been made for the future of education in Berkhamsted.”

Extra classrooms will be built at St Mary’s C of E First School in Northchurch and Potten End C of E First School for two extra year groups under the plans.

Bridgewater Middle School headteacher Rachel Swaffield said the two-tier system would make it easier for Ofsted inspectors to rate schools.

She said it would also make it easier to recruit staff, who prefer to work in the three-tier schools that operate throughout most of the country.

She said if there were no other factors involved, she would prefer the three-tier schooling system.

But she added: “We are now hoping to have a school within a school to keep that ethos of caring, knowing every child very well and having a very strong community spirit.”