Councillors were presented with a report containing an outline business case for the replacement of buildings at Astley High School and Whytrig Middle School in Seaton Delaval, incorporating both the middle and high school on one site.
Following consultation with staff, local community groups, county councillors, and the public, a preferred option has been approved for the £40m development that would see the schools rebuilt on a new shared site on land in The Avenue, proposed to open in April 2025.
The new buildings will allow all students across the two schools, part of the Seaton Valley Federation, to access facilities including science laboratories, art & design studios, sports pitches and a swimming pool that will also benefit the wider community.
Pioneering construction methods will also be used to create what will be the council’s first carbon neutral school and support the Council’s agreed Climate Change Action Plan.
Council leader Glen Sanderson said that while the new school was a priority for the council due to the state of the current Astley High School, his administration is also looking at building new schools in Berwick and Amble.
He said: “This is a hugely important step in this programme. Parents and residents have been hugely patient and kind to us as a council given the amount of time it has taken to get to this stage.
“I’m really pleased we’re getting on with this. I know this administration has made this a priority. It is going to be a fantastic new facility for pupils and the whole community there and for Northumberland as a whole.
“We have had a very full consultation and we will continue to keep talking to local people, because it’s very important that we understand the issues people raise. We will never get a system that everybody is happy with, but what we want is a first-class facility the majority of people want.”
The council’s head of school organisation and resources, Sue Aviston, said a number of options had been considered, but the one supported by schools, the community and officers was a new build on The Avenue site.
The development would feature a “hybrid park and stride” system with a car park three minutes walk from the school to allow parental drop off and alleviate traffic pressure.
Coun Sanderson added: “We want to see this recommendation go through. This isn’t the only school we’re going to build in our administration. We are looking very carefully at Berwick and Amble.”
The cabinet unanimously approved the plans, meaning a detailed business case will be developed and procurement for contractors sought to build the schools, as well as planning permission.
It is expected the detailed business case will go before cabinet for final approval in April 2023.
Executive Director of Adult and Children’s Services, Northumberland County Council, Cath McEvoy-Carr, said: “The new school buildings are much needed and work will now start to develop detailed proposals, and these will be shared in the summer at a further public consultation event prior to planning application being submitted.
“There will also be the opportunity for people to respond to the planning application throughout the Autumn.”
John Barnes, Executive Headteacher, Seaton Valley Federation, said: "I am really pleased that this has been agreed. I cannot wait for there to be a school building that gives the pupils of Astley High School and Whytrig Middle School facilities that are needed in the 21st century.
“The standard of education at the two schools is already very good and these new facilities will allow it to be even better.
“There will be lots of opportunities for the school and wider community to shape the plans and it is an exciting time for all of us.”