A £9million investment to transform education in Amble has been unveiled, in what has been described by a headteacher as ‘a real turning point’.
The vision is to overhaul the town’s James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) by bringing the middle and high schools together onto one site.
The aim is to relocate the South Road-based middle school onto the high school plot on Acklington Road.
Additionally, a major refurbishment of the high school is planned.
The development would form one large college to cater for nine to 19-year-olds.
It follows last year’s administrative merger between the two schools, which was designed to boost links and cut bureaucracy.
The funding is to come from Northumberland County Council’s capital investment programme. It is hoped that the new-look facilities will be up and running by the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, the Gazette has been told.
Executive headteacher Neil Rodgers said: “I am absolutely delighted that the county council has pledged a significant capital investment to JCSC in order for us to radically upgrade and remodel our current educational facilities.
“Coun Scott Dickinson, our former chairman of governors, and I have worked closely on this project for more than a year as we are both committed to ensuring that the young people of Amble and the surrounding area get the facilities they deserve and an entitlement to a first-class education in modern, well-equipped surroundings.
“Having a new build for the middle school-aged children on the high school site is the logical progression for us, having become one nine-to-19 school last June.
“It enables us to have the seamless transition between years, and between Key Stages, that will ensure all students make the best possible progress with our talented and dedicated staff on one site.
“This is a real turning point for JCSC and for the community it serves.”
The refurbishment of the school site will bring with it modernised classrooms, upgraded social areas and a new Sixth Form suite.
The school will also provide more opportunities for the local community to use the new facilities outside school hours.
Subject to planning approval, the aim is to start the building work in the spring.
Meetings have taken place between the school, county council and designers to establish the educational vision.
Initial designs and architectural plans have now been developed and a team of quantity surveyors is developing accurate project costs to enable it to move to the next phase of design.
Councillor Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at the county council, gave his support to the project.
He said: “Delivering the best possible educational environment for pupils is a priority for the county council and we are committed to delivering a high-quality environment for pupils at JCSC.”
A number of pupils come to the school from Coun Dickinson’s Druridge Bay ward.
Coun Scott Dickinson, business chairman for the county council and JCSC’s former chairman of governors, described the £9million investment as ‘wonderful news for the coastal strip of Northumberland’.
He added: “The building work will see a pre-war building replaced with fantastic new facilities, which will make a huge difference to daily life in the school and will create the best possible educational environment for our young people.”
He told the Gazette that there are currently no plans for the existing middle-school site once it becomes redundant.
Amble Mayor Jane Dargue spoke in favour of the plans to move all of the students onto one site.
She said: “It will make a big difference and it is something that I welcome. The joining up of the two schools has been long awaited and it can only benefit the students. It is excellent.”
The school development signals yet more investment in Amble.
Earlier this month, a plan to build a 30-bedroom hotel and 150-seater restaurant on an undeveloped site within Coquet Enterprise Park was given the go-ahead. Arch – The Northumberland Development Company, is behind the scheme, which represents an investment of up to £4million.
In 2015, the £2.5million Harbour Village was opened.