Final approval for merger of Amble schools

James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.
James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.
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The formal merger of Amble’s middle and high schools was given final approval following the conclusion of a statutory consultation.

The decision on the merger, to create a single James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) for pupils from nine to 18, was signed off by the decision-making cabinet of Northumberland County Council on Tuesday morning.

It came after a four-week statutory consultation, which received no responses either in favour or against the proposed changes.

Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services, as well as ward member for Amble, said: “This is unusual in one respect because it’s a technical merger of two schools that have been working very closely together, but on the other hand, it’s the closure of a middle school so we have to go through the due process.”

Outlining its reasons for the decision, the cabinet pointed out that the governors believe it will have a positive impact on outcomes for pupils as well as bringing a ‘continuity of approach’; enhancing management flexibility; removing unnecessary bureaucracy; and offering a ‘seamless transition for pupils’.

It means the formal closure of JCSC South Avenue on May 31 this year and the extension of the age range at JCSC Acklington Road so that it caters for nine to 18-year-olds.

However, the merger is unlikely to impact the day-to-day running of the school as nine to 13-year-olds will continue to be educated at the South Avenue site.

As we reported in March, the change had already been approved by the cabinet, but as it involves a school closure, the decision sparked a four-week statutory consultation prior to final approval.

Just five people responded to the consultation prior to that decision in March with three being in favour and two against, however, one of the arguments against was that a more drastic change should take place – to a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools within the Coquet Partnership.

The merger follows the formation of a hard federation last summer – the James Calvert Spence College Federation – under one governing body. This consists of JCSC Acklington Road, JCSC South Avenue and Acklington CofE First School.

When the proposals were announced last December, it was explained that the governors’ aim was to ‘forge greater links between the two schools, increase capacity, sharing of management resources and maximise investment’.

A council report added: ‘Enhanced continuity will allow the governing body to have more impact on improving the quality of education provided and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy’.