Delight as controversial plans to merge two Northumberland schools are scrapped

Parents have expressed their delight that controversial plans to merge two schools have been scrapped.

By David Sedgwick
Friday, 14th January 2022, 10:00 am
(L-R) Rachael and Thomas Howitt, Vicki Bester and Jake and Halle Gomm, Emma and Olivia Dunlop.
(L-R) Rachael and Thomas Howitt, Vicki Bester and Jake and Halle Gomm, Emma and Olivia Dunlop.

Under the plans, the pupils of both Seaton Sluice Middle School and Whytrig Middle School, in nearby Seaton Delaval, would be housed in a new school in planned new buildings shared with Astley High School on the same site.

All three Northumberland schools are part of the Seaton Valley Federation of schools.

Education chiefs at Northumberland County Council have previously claimed a merger would allow Seaton Sluice pupils to access a “modern educational environment” and smooth the move from middle to high school – as well as provide a “number of significant educational and financial benefits”.

Children Olivia Dunlop, Thomas Howitt, Jake Gomm, and Halle Gomm are delighted at the news they will be attend Seaton Sluice Middle School at its current site.

But, councillors sitting on the authority’s cabinet unanimously voted to scrap the plans on Tuesday.

Members of the family and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee had previously supported a report recommending that the plans not be taken any further.

The document stated that 83.06%, or 603, of respondents to the consultation were against the plans.

Objectors raised fears about the size of the middle school, increased distance for some pupils, younger children mixing with older children, parking and traffic issues and the loss of a community school.

Councillor Guy Renner-Thompson, Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services.

Meanwhile, the 16.94%, or 123, of respondents in favour of the scheme, said it would have social and academic benefits, mean that all pupils could benefit from new buildings and would help the transition between schools.

One parent, Vicki Bester, said: "We are extremely pleased with the decision.

"As local councillors have mentioned, our infrastructure cannot cope with ‘super schools’, and we do not believe that our children are best nurtured in schools of this size.

"Children of primary school age should have access to smaller, nurturing environments.

“Seaton Sluice Middle School needs to be maintained in a proper manner, so that the roof is not leaking and it has the resources it needs to build upon the positive learning experience that it already provides.

“As a small community, we will support the school, it’s staff and pupils in any way we can.

"We must now look to the future and work together."

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, portfolio holder for children and young people said: “This was a proposal that came from the governing body of the Seaton Valley Federation to amalgamate these two middle schools as part of our ongoing investment into schools.

“That proposal has been roundly rejected by the community citing various reasons from not wanting to lose the schools through to road safety and increased pupil numbers at the new site.”

He went on: “It was opposed by all the local members and by the MP Ian Levy and we are where we are with this report.

“Cabinet supports the officer recommendation not to move forward with the publication of a statutory proposal to amalgamate Seaton Sluice Middle School and Whytrig Middle School based on the evidence put before us today.”

Whilst Seaton Sluice Middle School will not amalgamate with Whytrig Middle School and Astley High School, officers have noted in the report that the project to provide new buildings for Astley High School and Whytrig Middle School on the current shared site or another site will continue to proceed as originally planned.