Council approves next steps in £36.6m schools shake-up in Amble area

Formal consultation on proposals to move schools in Amble to a two-tier system and create a SEND hub will now get underway after the next steps were approved by councillors.
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Northumberland County Council has already approved a £25.5m investment in the Coquet Partnership, including the replacement or refurbishment of James Calvert Spence College (JCSC).

But before committing to such a major investment, an informal public consultation took place on the future structure of the school system in the partnership.

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An overwhelming 92% of respondents said they believed a two-tier structure would deliver the best outcomes for young people.

Members of the Coquet Schools Partnership.Members of the Coquet Schools Partnership.
Members of the Coquet Schools Partnership.

There was also support for proposals to create 50 new places for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) by building a new satellite site of Barndale House Special School on the current JCSC South Avenue site that would open in September 2024.

The new SEND hub would cater primarily for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs, Speech Language and Communication (SLCN) and Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD).

It would also provide support to all the Coquet Partnership schools offering continuous professional development for staff, intervention and outreach support into mainstream schools.

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At Northumberland County Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday (September 21), councillors approved a recommendation to carry out formal consultation on the proposals - giving all interested parties the opportunity to have their say.

They also agreed to increase the budget for the project by £11.1m from £25.5m to £36.6m in order to deliver the capital investment required for all schools.

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services, said: “This is the latest in a long list of ambitious school builds across the county as this council invests in the future of education in Northumberland.

“Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation and helped to shape the next stage of the plans.

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“The vast majority of respondents thought that the two-tier model will deliver the best outcomes for our young people and create a viable education system for the future.

“Expanding Barndale House Special School by building a new SEND hub in Amble will also enable more young people to have their needs met as close to their local communities as possible.

“We’ve got fantastic schools here in the county and we want them to have first-class facilities to match.

“I’d also like to congratulate everyone at James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) on their recent ‘Good’ Ofsted report, which is a boost to the town of Amble, a credit to the whole school community and our school improvement team who work closely alongside them.”

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Audrey Kingham, interim joint director of children’s services and director of education and skills, added: “This is a really exciting time for education in Northumberland.

“Before we make this major investment, we want to make sure we have the school system that is right for the community.

“The informal public consultation showed widespread support for the two-tier model and for expanding SEND provision.

“It is clear that the schools in the partnership are all committed to working together and to do what is best for the young people in Amble and the surrounding areas.”

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In a joint statement, the headteachers of the Coquet Partnership said: “All the schools in the Coquet Partnership are united in their vision to build a thriving educational community where all our children and young people can reach their full potential.”

A four-week period of statutory consultation will now get underway during which time all interested parties will be able to submit comments either for or against the proposals.