Merger of two Amble schools gets go-ahead

Proposals to merge Amble's high and middle schools into one, boosting links and cutting bureaucracy, have been given the green light.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 9:39 am
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2016, 9:41 am
James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.

At yesterday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, it was agreed to issue a statutory notice based on the desire of James Calvert Spence College’s (JCSC) governing body to merge its two schools.

It means the formal closure of JCSC South Avenue on May 31 this year and the extension of the age range at JCSC Acklington Road so that it caters for nine to 18-year-olds.

However, the merger is unlikely to impact the day-to-day running of the school as nine to 13-year-olds will continue to be educated at the South Avenue site.

Nonetheless, as it involves a school closure, yesterday’s decision by the cabinet has sparked a four-week statutory consultation prior to final approval.

Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services and ward member for Amble, said: “The consultation responses were very low which tells me it wasn’t very contentious.”

Headteacher Neil Rodgers added: “I’m not surprised it wasn’t contentious, it just makes absolute sense.”

Coun Paul Kelly, Independent group leader, initially said he had ‘misgivings’ about ‘hanging grimly on’ to a three-tier structure, adding: “I wonder if this has been bottomed out by everyone involved.”

But chairman of governors Scott Dickinson explained that it meant that pupils would only make one transition at age nine and all the teachers work across both sites.

Coun Arckless added: “I’m not, and the administration is not, wedded to any particular system.

“I’m not in the business of imposing a solution.”

The merger was also discussed at Monday’s meeting of the authority’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee.

In response to a question, director of education Andy Johnson confirmed that in future the school would receive one lump sum rather than two on top of its per-pupil funding.

However, it was also pointed out that the Government is currently consulting on a new funding formula for schools.