Questions raised after JCSC shuts for training day

James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.
James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.

A concerned parent has questioned an Amble school’s teacher training day, with claims that staff had boasted to children that they were taking the day off to play golf and shop for Black Friday deals.

The source, who did not want to be named, contacted us after James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) was closed on Friday, November 27.

In a letter, she said: ‘A parent drove past both South Avenue and Acklington Road sites to find them locked with no cars in the car park and no teachers training.

‘She said that her son had come home and stated that his teachers had said that they were going shopping and playing golf, rather than training, as they had the day off.

‘Following a call, the county council said the teachers were not having a day off and they would possibly be training off site. But, funnily enough, a teacher at one of the schools was seen shopping at the MetroCentre on the Friday during school hours, by a parent who had to take the time off work to look after her child as the school was closed.’

But she claimed: “We were told by a governor that the teachers had worked extra to be able to take this day off, but the children don’t receive time off for doing extra homework.”

In response, JCSC’s interim executive headteacher, Jonathan Heath, said: “The JCSC Federation announced the November 27 teacher training day to parents towards the end of the 2014/15 academic year, following a change in leadership. The decision was taken to commute this training day for staff in order to increase the capacity throughout the year for additional training that will ultimately benefit the students. Whilst this has not been common practice in the past at JCSC, it is not an unusual strategy in schools, because regular training for staff across the year can have a greater impact on performance than one-off days.

“The additional capacity for staff training that the day provided for the Federation is on the staff calendar and is in addition to the meetings and training that already takes place on a weekly basis.

“The Federation needs to ensure that it meets the statutory requirements of 195 days in school for staff and 190 days for students and this statutory requirement has been met.

“It is regrettable that a small number of parents and children perceived the date as a day off as a result of some comments by staff, but it is also worth noting that many staff continued to work from home.

“A recent report states that the Federation’s effectiveness is good. This is in part due to the focus on quality staff training to help ensure the best outcomes for children.”

Consultation on 9-to-18 school

As reported in last week’s Gazette, the governors of the James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) Federation wants to merge the middle and high schools, which would require the formal closure of JCSC South Avenue and the extension of the age range at JCSC Acklington Road so that it caters for nine to 18-year-olds. However, nine to 13-year-olds would continue to be educated at the South Avenue site.

On Tuesday, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet approved a consultation, which will run until February 17, 2016.