This week is not just the start of a new term and academic year, but the beginning of a new era at the Duchess’s Community High School.
That’s because yesterday saw the Alnwick school welcome Year 7 and 8 pupils to the Greensfield campus for the first time.
The arrival of the 11 and 12-year-olds from across north Northumberland marks the conclusion of the transition from a three-tier to two-tier structure in the Alnwick Partnership, which has seen the area’s first schools become primaries and four middle schools – in Alnwick and Seahouses – close.
However, the school’s age range has grown before the building itself is large enough to accommodate the extra students. Portable classrooms are being used until the under-construction extension is completed.
Consultation on the switch to two-tier started in November 2014 and was signed off in January 2016. Last September, the first schools became primaries and the middle schools closed this summer.
Headteacher Maurice Hall said: “We have looked forward to this for a number of years and been genuinely excited by the prospect of working with students and families from 11 to 18. Our older students and Sixth Form in particular are looking forward to acting as positive role models for our youngest ones.
“Talking to many children over the last year, they have said how much they have been looking forward to this week and the prospect of learning new things and making new friends.
“Work on transition has been on going for a long time now and we would not be in the positive position that we are in if it wasn’t for the support we have had from middle-school colleagues, parents and the wider community.
“It has not been easy for colleagues in our closing middle schools, but they have still given a significant amount of their time and expertise to making sure all their students are prepared for the time ahead.
“All change and transition provides anxiety and concern and I hope we can quickly convince both our young people and their parents that they will have a safe, enjoyable and stimulating time at our school.
“I know my colleagues will do everything they can to support, nurture and encourage all of them over the next few years. I believe we have a really excellent, caring set of staff who will go that extra mile to make sure all our students achieve their full potential both as learners and as developing young men and women.
“We are yet to see the completion of our full range of facilities, expected to be finished by late spring of 2018. However, we are all confident, with the help and support of our wider community, that we will deliver a breadth of experience, and consistency of approach, that will help everyone to succeed.”