Merger begins with one head in charge of Alnwick middle schools

Dawn Morton,  headteacher of the Duke's Middle School in Alnwick.
Dawn Morton, headteacher of the Duke's Middle School in Alnwick.

One headteacher will take charge of two of Alnwick’s middle schools from January 1 as moves to merge the two begin.

Current Duke’s Middle School headteacher Dawn Morton will be in charge of all aspects of running both the Duke’s and Lindisfarne Middle School following her appointment this week.

Mrs Morton said: “I am looking forward to working with staff at Lindisfarne and continuing to work with the team at Duke’s and to make sure improvements to performance which have already been achieved are accelerated.

“There is so much more we can do as two schools working closely together to strengthen the quality of teaching and learning and I am excited about the opportunities which are ahead of us.

“The staff in both schools are a fantastic group of dedicated, hard-working professionals.

“We are committed to our vision, to give our children a special place where they can grow and excel, in a nurturing environment, supported by skilled, knowledgeable adults and with seamless transition between phases.”

Chairman of governors Lalage Bosanquet added: “There have been significant changes at Lindisfarne over the past year and the staff and students have risen to the challenge. Steph Hall deserves a huge thank-you for all the work she has done as acting headteacher.

“However, there are further challenges ahead with our proposal to merge the two middle schools and strengthen performance across the middle phase for all our students.

“I am delighted we have been able to appoint Dawn Morton as headteacher across the two schools to continue this work, given her track record of raising standards and expectations at Duke’s Middle. I and the governors will continue to support our excellent team of staff across the three schools.”

As reported in the Gazette last week, efforts to merge the two schools – one of the three models in the recently-launched consultation on the reorganisation of schools in the area – are already going ahead.

The consultation involves all of the schools in the Alnwick Partnership, made up 10 community schools and eight church schools as voluntary members.

And while there are differing views among some of the schools, the preferred outcome of the governing body of the Aln Community Schools Federation, which is responsible for the two middle schools and the Duchess’s Community High School, is to merge Lindisfarne and the Duke’s on the Lindisfarne site, but by September 2016, not 2015 as in the consultation.

In a letter sent out to parents, it is explained that ‘even with the extra money coming in to schools in Northumberland from next September, it is going to be harder to balance the books’.

It continues: ‘The Duke’s Middle School is in a beautiful building. But it is very expensive to heat and maintain. The long-term lease on the school has run out and it costs over £90,000 every year in rent for the building.

‘Although we get some extra money from the county council because of this, we have to spend a lot to look after this building.

‘We think that merging the two schools will make it possible to strengthen education for ages 9-13.

“‘ll the money we can save by just having one middle school site means more money to spend on teaching staff, equipment and resources for the children to help them learn.’

To read and respond to the schools consultation document on the county council website, visit http://tinyurl.com/lcou393