School's out early for Alnwick students

The new Duchess's Community High School takes shape on the Greensfield site in Alnwick.
The new Duchess's Community High School takes shape on the Greensfield site in Alnwick.

Alnwick's high school students will be breaking up for summer early and starting the autumn term late to allow teachers more time to pack and move into their new building.

The summer term was due to finish on Wednesday, July 20, but the Duchess's High School will close a few days earlier on Friday, July 15, as preparations continue for the shift across town to the new site at Greensfield. All packing needs to be completed by Friday, July 22.

And there will be a phased start to the next academic year 'to allow a successful and in-control start to the new year', according to headteacher Maurice Hall. Individual year groups will spend one day in school during the first week back, with the whole school starting on Monday, September 12.

Parents were informed this morning in a letter from Mr Hall and follows a consultation exercise.

He wrote: 'The handover of the buildings does not take place until August 30 and with many staff only contracted to come back to work on September 5, I hope you can appreciate the need for us to sort ourselves out re training and operational procedures prior to students returning. These dates are outside our control to change.'

The consultation with parents produced 10 responses, of which nine were in favour of the proposals. The other response expressed concern about the loss of learning time.

Mr Hall added: 'We fully acknowledge this issue and we will make sure that work is provided [for the students] for the period July 18 to 20. We will also explore what work can be offered for the beginning of the new academic year.'

On the basis of the consultation the governing body of the school have agreed the school will be closed to students from the end of the school day on Friday, July 15, and the staggered start to next term will take place as follows:
- September 5 – Training Day (no students on site)
- September 6 – Training Day (small number of sixth-formers on site from noon to discuss possible changes to option choices, etc)
- September 7 – Year 9 and Year 12 in all day (return on September 12)
- September 8 – Year 10 and Year 13 in all day (return on September 12)
- September 9 – Year 11 in all day (return on September 12)

Mr Hall said: 'We are aware that some parents may have concerns about this extended staggered start. If there are individual families, especially those who have children who have SEN or are Disadvantaged, who feel they may need some extra support during the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week then please get in touch with us before the end of term.'

He also said the early Wednesday finish, which has operated over a number of years, will no longer happen from the beginning of September due to the changes in transport contracts that the local authority has with the bus companies. This effectively means the end of the school day will be 3.35pm every day.

He concluded: 'We remain genuinely excited by our move and look forward to inviting you into the new buildings at the earliest opportunity to have a look around.'

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