Full steam ahead for two-tier education in Alnwick Partnership

Latest news from the Northumberland Gazette.
Latest news from the Northumberland Gazette.

Two under-threat first schools seem to have escaped the axe, but the middle schools in Alnwick and Seahouses are set to close as the area's system is reorganised.

Following the end of the second period of consultation on the reorganisation of schools in the Alnwick Partnership, the recommendations are now to proceed with the transition to a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools, resulting in the closure of four middle schools. However, the latest report suggests that Branton and Embleton First Schools convert to primary schools with the others, rather than close.

The report, prepared by Northumberland County Council's director of education, Andy Johnson, will go before the local authority's family and children's services scrutiny committee next Monday morning, with their feedback and the report then before the cabinet for a decision on Tuesday.

As with any proposed school closures, if the cabinet approves the recommendations, it will launch a period of statutory consultation before a final decision in January 2016.

On the table is the closure of the Duke's, Lindisfarne and St Paul's RC Middle Schools in Alnwick as well as Seahouses Middle School at the end of August 2017. From September 1 that year, the Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick would become an 11-to-18 secondary school on the new Greensfield site.

The first schools in Alnwick (St Paul's RC, St Michael's CE, Swansfield Park), Hipsburn, Shilbottle, Seahouses, Branton, Swarland, Longhoughton, Ellingham, Felton, Whittingham, Embleton would become 4-to-11 primary schools from September 1 next year, meaning the current academic year would be their last as first schools.

The estimated cost of the changes needed to cater for the different age ranges is around £10million, with the bulk of this (£6million) is to modify the new-build high school to house Year 7 and 8 pupils.

Daljit Lally, deputy chief executive of Northumberland County Council, said: "This was never going to be an easy process and I am delighted that so many people got involved in both consultation processes as it shows how passionate the people of Northumberland are about the education of their children.

"We all share the same objective which is to ensure our children get the best education they can and we have a clear leadership role in working with schools to enable them to deliver this.

"I believe that what is being recommended, and supported by the vast majority of schools in the partnership, will ensure a sustainable school system across the Alnwick Partnership for the future.

"The council has no plan to alter school structures across Northumberland, however, if individual schools or groups of schools plan to change age ranges, then similar consultations may have to be considered to ensure there is no adverse impact on other schools which could affect the quality of education children receive.

"As national education policy continues to devolve more powers to individual schools and academies, it is vital that the authority plays a leading role in ensuring there is a coherent and high-quality educational system across the county."


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