Northumberland school merger plans scrapped

Northumberland councillors have unanimously voted to scrap contentious plans to merge two local schools after an outcry from parents.

By Herbert Soden
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 6:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 11:26 am
Plans to merge Seaton Sluice Middle School with Whytrig Middle School have been scrapped.
Plans to merge Seaton Sluice Middle School with Whytrig Middle School have been scrapped.

Under the plans, the pupils of both Seaton Sluice Middle School and Whytrig Middle School in nearby Seaton Delaval would be housed in a new school in planned new buildings shared with Astley High School on the same site. All three Northumberland schools are part of the Seaton Valley Federation of schools.

Education chiefs at Northumberland County Council (NCC) have previously claimed a merger would allow Seaton Sluice pupils to access a “modern educational environment” and smooth the move from middle to high school – as well as provide a “number of significant educational and financial benefits”.

But, councillors sitting on the authority’s cabinet unanimously voted to scrap the plans on Tuesday.

They were following the recommendations set out in a report which advised not to proceed to the publication of a statutory proposal to amalgamate Seaton Sluice Middle School and Whytrig Middle School.

It stated that 83.06%, or 603, of respondents to the consultation were against the plans.

Objectors raised fears about the size of the middle school, increased distance for some pupils, younger children mixing with older children, parking and traffic issues and the loss of a community school.

Meanwhile, the 16.94%, or 123, of respondents in favour of the scheme, said it would have social and academic benefits, and that all pupils could benefit from new buildings and it would help the transition between schools.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, portfolio holder for children and young people said: “This was a proposal that came from the governing body of the Seaton Valley Federation to amalgamate these two middle schools as part of our ongoing investment into schools.

“That proposal has been roundly rejected by the community citing various reasons from not wanting to lose the schools through to road safety and increased pupil numbers at the new site.”

He went on: “It was opposed by all the local members and by the MP Ian Levy and we are where we are with this report.

“Cabinet supports the officer recommendation not to move forward with the publication of a statutory proposal to amalgamate Seaton Sluice Middle School and Whytrig Middle School based on the evidence put before us today.”