Consultation over, but key decisions to come

An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.

An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.

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The consultation period on proposals to change the structure of schools in the Alnwick Partnership ended yesterday.

The partnership is made up of 10 community schools with a further eight church-funded schools as voluntary members.

The governors of the Aln Federation – made up of the Duchess’s Community High School and the Duke’s and Lindisfarne Middle Schools – have reaffirmed their stance of being against a two-tier secondary school on a split site, but not the two-tier system itself.

They also say that not doing anything at all is not an option, as the present system will become ‘increasingly challenging due to the changes at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4’.

They are agreed that if the consultation favours a two-tier system, the council must explore every option to enlarge the accommodation at the new high-school site at Greensfield as part of the current building programme.

It is their view that any decision on the reorganisation should be put on hold until there is a clear statement from Northumberland County Council about what proposals it has to accommodate all students across Years 7 to 13 on one site.

Nonetheless, this would seem to make a two-tier system in Alnwick less likely, certainly in the shorter term, as there would be significant financial implications resulting from this.

The county council’s budget for the next two financial years has been approved and the local authority is already providing £4.5million to the Alnwick schools reorganisation from various funding sources and another £7.4million for the Priority Schools Building Programme, which includes the rebuild of the Duchess’s.

One suggestion is that the sale of the Lindisfarne Middle School site could be used to fund the required enlarged or extra accommodation at Greensfield.

However, a larger high school, which would become a secondary school, would not be the only expenditure as the first schools feeding into the secondary school would become primary schools and may also need to be expanded. This is notwithstanding the fact that the consultation may not favour a two-tier system in any case.

County council policy board member for children’s services, Robert Arckless, has reaffirmed the council’s commitment to an open and transparent consultation.

He told the Gazette that the consultation needs to be treated with the respect it deserves before any decisions are taken and that all options will be considered – including new ones –so long as they are viable.

A poll has been running on the Gazette website since the proposals were first announced in November last year. More than 2,100 people have voted and the majority (54 per cent) opted for no change. The two-tier system, which didn’t mention the split site, earned 29 per cent and merging the Lindisfarne and Duke’s Middle Schools, 18 per cent.

We are launching a new poll, which offers four options: No change; the merger; two-tier as in the consultation document; or two-tier on a single site. It can be found in our website’s news section on the right-hand side.