Headteacher outlines problems facing Northumberland school caught between two-tier and three-tier systems
A north Northumberland headteacher has outlined the challenges facing his school amid a potential shake-up of the education system.
A review into options for the Berwick schools partnership is currently being conducted by Northumberland County Council with £40million having been earmarked for a revamp.
While much of the focus has been on a potential rebuild of Berwick Academy, there are a host of other factors which come into play for feeder schools such as those in Wooler.
Mike Deane-Hall, head at Wooler First School and Glendale Middle School, said: "The county council has pledged funding for the Berwick partnership to improve education provision and that is something the governors here welcome because the situation needs to be looked at in terms of us sitting between the Alnwick two-tier partnership and the three-tier Berwick partnership.
"It has caused problems and will continue to do so in terms of where children go from here. We have pupils leaving after Year 6 to head off to school in Alnwick or staying until Year 8 and heading north into the Berwick partnership or south into Duchess’s High in Alnwick.
"We’re also facing a situation locally where the pupil roll is falling so the governors are looking at how we address that.
"Certainly within the next two to three years there may be some serious conversations and action taken to ensure we are able to serve the community in terms of schooling. That may not be keeping two schools on one site.
"If Berwick moves to a two-tier system, that potentially could lead to us becoming a primary school rather than a first and middle school.”
He also told a meeting of Wooler Parish Council that first school pupil numbers across the Berwick partnership are falling.
Councillors asked if there was any prospect of Wooler becoming part of the Alnwick partnership.
Mr Deane-Hall replied: “At the moment Wooler is in the Berwick partnership catchment but historically parents have been able to express a preference (for their children moving to Berwick Academy or Duchess’s Community High School).
"Last year, Year 8 at Duchess’s was full so very few of our Year 8’s got a place and we anticipate that potentially more of our current Year 6’s will want to move down to Duchess’s which obviously causes problems for us.”
He said it was unknown whether a change to two-tier could be on the agenda but his preference was to keep the structure as it is.
“Partnership heads have been meeting regular to explore options but there has been no conclusion as far as I’m aware,” he said.
"I love what we have here,” he added. “I think it works well for the community in that it keeps children closer to where they live for longer rather than putting them on school transport for an hour and a half a day.
"I don’t know if it’s going to be possible with the numbers projected as they are which is why there has to be the possibility of going two-tier. Then there’s the question of which partnership it would sit in.”
He expects a formal consultation exploring different options to start some time after half-term.