Northumberland County Council has confirmed its intention to invest in new school buildings in Amble and Berwick.
The authority has allocated at least £15million for a new school to replace the ageing Berwick Academy buildings, while it has also agreed to a ‘multimillion-pound investment’ in Amble’s James Calvert Spence College (JCSC), as revealed as last-minute additions to the budget last week.
Both proposals are now subject to the development of detailed business cases, which will involve the schools working alongside the council and building professionals to develop the best proposals for each scheme.
JCSC representatives have been meeting Coun Wayne Daley, the cabinet member for children’s services, and council officers for some time to look at how they can develop their school, and how it might support the council with SEND (special educational needs and/or disabilities) and other important provision.
The Friendliest Port has also seen more than 2,000 new houses approved in recent years and needs a school fit for the 21st century.
Coun Daley said: “I am delighted that we have been able to announce these plans for a new school in Berwick and major, long-overdue investment into Amble’s only high school.
“These ambitious plans are just part of our wider commitment to educational excellence in Northumberland and come on the back of recent announcements about new schools in Seaton Delaval and in Hexham.”
Coun Jeff Watson, the Conservative representing the Amble West with Warkworth ward, welcomed the investment.
“Along with Coun Daley, I have been working for some time to secure funding that will ensure that the school has the facilities it needs to be fully fit for purpose and will give our young people an excellent environment in which to learn,” he said.
“I know that the details have to be developed as part of a business case, but the news that this investment will happen is fantastic for Amble and surrounding communities.”
Labour’s Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay and JCSC’s former chairman of governors, said he would ‘welcome any investment in our local school’, but issued a note of caution given that no specific funding has been allocated in the council’s spending plan.
Amble residents will also be wary given that a £9million redevelopment of the school was announced by Coun Dickinson and his colleagues in the previous Labour administration, but came to nothing after the 2017 election when the Tories seized power and sparked a political row after claiming no business case had been drawn up for the project.
The current Berwick Academy buildings date back to the 1950s and have been the subject of concern due to the continuing dilapidation of the site as well as the layout of the buildings, which are spread across a large area.
The news about a new school has been warmly welcomed by the town's three county councillors - Catherine Seymour, Gregah Roughead and Georgina Hill.
The academy is in Coun Hill’s ward and, speaking on behalf of the trio, she said: "This commitment to invest in a new school for Berwick is really good news.
"There has been a lot of concern in the town about certain aspects of the current education provision and we are very glad to see that these concerns are being taken seriously and acted upon by the council."
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service