Bedford Free School smashes it out of the park – congratulations!

It is fantastic news to hear that Bedford Free School (BFS), with so many Kempston pupils, has achieved fantastic results on its first ever original cohort of GCSE examinees. The results are the best state school results in Bedford & Kempston and the second best within the whole of Bedford Borough. See the headline figures here:

  • 57% achieved 5 or more A*-Cs including English & maths (the Borough average is 52% and the national average is 53%)
  • 27% achieved 5 or more A*-Bs and just under 10% achieved 5 or more A*-A
  • 80% achieved a C or better in English; 65% C or better in Maths
  • Incredibly strong progress in the fundamental subjects of English and Maths
  • Top performing student achieved 11 A* and 1 A; half a dozen on track for Oxbridge
  • Fantastic performances by students from all starting points

The Free School policy, brought in by the Conservative-led government in the last parliament, is a defining characteristic of the modern political dividing lines within our country. Whereas Labour, nationally and locally, are opposed to giving families the opportunity to break free from the clutches of the ‘put up with what you’re given’ mentality, Conservatives have allowed communities to provide alternative options and freedom of choice to families.

People such as Mark Lehain, BFS’s Principal, and those who have supported this new school have taken the opportunity to effect positive change in their local communities rather than indefinitely put up with what children are given – their attitude of action and improvement is a phenomenal credit to the teaching profession. Suddenly, under a Conservative government, the opportunity to have greater choice and access to higher quality standards of education is not just the luxury of wealthy Labour Councillors sending their children to public school – people now have a greater chance to break free from the control of politicians and local authorities and try something different and potentially better for their children.

Given local Labour and Lib Dem Councillors fought tooth and nail to block BFS from even existing, and are politically opposed to providing choice to families who could not otherwise afford it, I doubt you’ll hear much bluster from them following this fantastic news for BFS’s pupils.

For all those pupils now with A*s and As running through their CVs, and indeed those on Cs rather than Es, and Bs rather than Ds: what a brighter future they have now achieved. I’m proud to serve some Kempston families with exceptionally talented and gifted children at all schools, and I’m proud to support a party that is willing to relinquish politicians’ central power, offering them choice and the opportunity of activism within our local community. On this score, I’m really looking forward to seeing Hastingsbury become an Academy soon.

My Labour predecessor as Borough Councillor publically suggested that Mark Lehain should give up on the project of BFS altogether and settle for applying for a headship in a mainstream school. For the sake of all those children with those higher grades and brighter futures, thank God people are tired of the outdated, languid socialism that held them back for so long. Thank God Lehain didn’t listen.

Congratulations to all pupils of Bedford Free School, and particularly those from Kempston! Also, congratulations to the great successes of a number of Hastingsbury pupils, including Amber Morris with a whopping 9 A/A* grades, and those studying even further afield!

‘Blitz spirit’ descends on Kempston as we suffer a frustrating burst water main

This morning, Kempston suffered a burst water main, which stopped the supply of water to the majority of homes, schools, and businesses in our town. It was very frustrating, and has caused real disruption, particularly with schools closing either partially or fully. I am glad to hear that year 6 pupils were still asked to go in, especially given the importance of their stage of education with regards to Key Stage 2 SATs.

I got on the phone to Anglian Water early this morning to ask when we should expect the problem to be sorted, and to add my name to calls for urgent action; I was told that we should expect the mains to be fixed by 2pm, and it appears to be the case that a gentle trickle has started again throughout Kempston at around 11am. Water pressure should be back to normal later this evening (at around 9pm at the latest) and, if not, please do call Anglian Water on 03457 145 145 – we are expecting everything to be normalised later.

Things we can learn from this going forward are that schools should be encouraged to use their text service ASAP to give as ready an alert as possible and that the Borough Council website should be updated more quickly – all parents were eventually informed, but it appears that some parents felt the reliance on social media as opposed to earlier direct communication was less useful. While we should encourage quicker and more joined-up responses to these types of emergencies in some cases, we should also appreciate the early efforts of staff at local schools, most of which were able to get the message out quickly and effectively.

We should also take joy in the fact that, on social media outlets, people in Kempston whose water supply had not been affected were quick to offer help and access to precious H2O for those in need. Out of such a frustrating situation, it was great to see an almost ‘blitz spirit’ emerge, especially so soon after the 70th anniversary of VE Day! It really does show you that – despite the gloomy media naysayers – we are still predominantly a great nation of people, and a great community in Kempston, even all these years after our finest hour.

There are lessons to be learned, and frustrations and disruption is still raw – but we should also be proud to have the type of people in our community who generously offered access to their water supply; whose first instinct is to help others.

Visit to my old school, Camestone

Camestone

Earlier today, I visited Camestone Lower School – the school I attended as a young child – to see recent progress and learn how the school can be better helped at a local level. In its most recent Ofsted report, Camestone was graded as a good school, and I was impressed to learn just how far education has come on over recent years. In every classroom that I visited, I was greeted by smiling, happy children who were genuinely engaged in their learning.

By a pleasant twist of fate, I was greeted by an old school friend, Miss Ducker, who has gone on to lead Key Stage 2 learning in the school; it was also lovely to see another old school friend, Mrs Gillespie, who has gone on to teach at the school, and who has also taken on special responsibilities.

The school has understandably changed quite a bit since I was there a couple of decades ago. A particularly nice addition to the school is an exciting ‘outside classroom’, hidden in the trees and shrubbery, which looks like an idyllic spot for summertime reading.

It was particularly interesting to hear how recent curriculum changes are being practically implemented in the classroom, and how they are helping children engage with each stage of learning more fully as opposed to being pushed through to the next stage without having fully grasped comprehension of each topic. This has had a really positive impact on children’s education, and I was pleased to hear from Camestone staff how important it is for the school to provide a solid foundation for Kempston children’s education.

Let’s support this good school in any way we can.

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Take the Politics out of Education: get Labour out of Kempston

Recent figures show that in Bedford Borough, 98.8% of parents were able to send their children to their chosen middle, second and upper school in 2014. 92.3% of lower and primary pupils in Bedford Borough also went to their parents’ preferred school, similarly breaking the national average.

This is due to fantastic changes we’ve seen locally, due to new national policies which – as well as placing a new emphasis on raising standards – have freed up money and support for a new way of organising education locally. The new ‘academies’, which Hastingsbury, Robert Bruce and Daubeney have all now converted to or are converting to, allow for greater freedom and choice, as well as extra support in improving standards. Setting up ‘free schools’ extends choice even further for parents and families who would otherwise place their children in schools based purely on a postcode lottery – suddenly, under this government, you don’t need to be wealthy to have empowerment over where and how your child is educated.

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Despite the fact that Labour’s Tony Blair originally brought in academy status for schools, our local Labour party and Councillors have ritually attempted to block the conversion of local Kempston schools into academies, blocking potentially £millions from local pupils’ education. They also bitterly opposed the creation of new free schools, hence one of the reasons our first one had to be set up in Bedford rather than Kempston, where Labour currently has a monopoly of Councillors.

Why, when it was a Labour government that first introduced academies, has our local Labour party been so against them as well as opposing the Conservative policy of free schools?

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The reason: because they are committed to an outdated 1970s political ideology of maximum state control over everything, and are unwilling to provide greater flexibility and freedom of choice in local education. When an academy or free school is set up, the Local Educational Authority (LEA) loses complete control over it. Statist socialists hate it, because suddenly local teachers, communities, pupils and parents have clout, rather than all power residing in the hands of local politicians and bureaucrats.

At this election, you have the chance to take the politics out of local education. The local Labour party has a rabid commitment to an outdated model based on vested interests and political ideology, which has failed so many state school children. It has a pathological hatred for choice and the independence of local parents, children and schools from their complete control via the LEA’s all-seeing eye.

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If we get Labour out of Kempston, we can get the politics out of local education – we would work with whatever government policy is offered to secure the best funding and support, and the best schooling possible for Kempston’s children and families.

Recent achievements around parental choice in Bedford Borough are fantastic, and have happened in spite of Labour’s local presence. If we can break up their monopoly in Kempston, we might actually start to get some more stuff done!

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