Considering the options for education in Northumberland

Bellingham Middle School
Bellingham Middle School

Multi-million-pound proposals to re-shape education in the west of Northumberland are to be considered.

Following statutory consultation on proposals to extend the age ranges of Greenhaugh, Bellingham, Wark, Kielder, Otterburn and West Woodburn first schools, and to close Bellingham Middle School, a recently-published report provides options for the creation of a sustainable education system.

The county council’s cabinet will meet on Tuesday to consider the recommendations in the report.

It outlines a proposal to invest £5.1million in education to create clear educational pathways across the Haydon Bridge Partnership, while retaining choice for parents.

This investment would support the creation of a 0-11 pre-school and primary provision in Bellingham that would strengthen early years education in the area, improve facilities for art and technology and provide community spaces that could be used by all schools to deliver an enhanced primary curriculum.

Haydon Bridge High School would also see significant investment in order to rationalise buildings, better safeguard the site and upgrade the interior of the remaining buildings.

At its May meeting, Cabinet instructed officers to develop options and indicative costings to replace the buildings of Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School, which form the Hadrian Learning Trust.

If the latest report is approved by cabinet, a detailed business case would then be carried out to establish a preferred site and a robust project budget would be developed to provide new buildings for the Hadrian Learning Trust.

It is estimated that this work would cost up to £40million. Approval is also requested for the allocation of £250k from the Medium Term Plan to carry out the necessary surveys, ground investigations and feasibility works in order to provide cost surety, prior to procurement.

During the recent consultations on age range change, support for bringing together Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School on one site was expressed. This would potentially create educational and operational benefit and provide good value for money. In light of this feedback, the proposed scope of the project will also include single site options.

The proposals would also see the age ranges extended in the schools at Kielder, Bellingham, Otterburn and Greenhaugh. Officers felt it would not be appropriate to recommend any changes at West Woodburn First School at this time.

Cabinet will also consider a recommendation to approve the proposal to extend the age range of Wark Church of England First School as it is linked to the other proposals.

If cabinet approval is granted, a business case and a preferred option will be developed for cabinet consideration in the autumn, and an engagement exercise will take place.