Schools merger leads to childcare changes

Linzi Reid and her son Sam.
Linzi Reid and her son Sam.

The future of childcare for younger infants in Wooler is up in the air following the merger of two schools.

And concerns have been raised about how younger children, aged two and under, will be looked after due to the changes.

Wooler First School is moving to the middle school site.

Wooler First School is moving to the middle school site.

As previously reported by the Gazette, Wooler First School is to amalgamate onto the Glendale Middle School site from September.

However, the first school site has, up to this point, housed both the county council-run Sure Start centre and a pre-school run by the first school, which will be replaced by a new service at the middle school site.

This means that from September, there will be no provision to take on further 0 to two-year-olds, although the three currently enrolled will be looked after.

The streamlined provision will also result in job losses with current employees having to reapply for a reduced number of roles in the new service.

Glendale Middle School

Glendale Middle School

Daljit Lally, executive director for community health and wellbeing at Northumberland County Council, said: “Work has been ongoing for some time between Wooler First school staff, governors from the first and middle school, Sure Start children’s centre managers and the county council to look at the best possible options for day-care and pre-school provision for children and families of Wooler.

“This has been worked through very carefully by all those involved.

“All parties agreed that a new provision within the combined school would be the best option for the future.

“Due to the great number of changes taking place in the school, the governors felt that the responsibility for delivering childcare for children aged 0 to two, which involves a separate Ofsted process, would be too much at this time.

“County council staff have been looking for alternative childcare solutions, primarily for the three children who were using the nursery.

“We have made a commitment that we will provide support for them until they reach two and are able to access the new provision.

“We are currently working with others in the community about options for childcare for 0 to two-year-olds going forward. We are aware that there will be a need for this service and are confident that over the next few months there will be provision in place.

“In the meantime, we will continue to provide advice, support and help to parents who are looking for childcare.”

Linzi Reid, who lives in Wooler, has a two-year-old son Sam and is also expecting her second child, due in August.

She explained that when she returns to work, her two children will need to be taken to different providers and if the one childminder for under twos in Wooler has no capacity, then it will have to be outside the village.

“To my mind, the relocation of both schools to one site has the intended aim to protect schooling in Wooler for the future,” she said.

“I am in favour of this move, but find the proposed changes to the 0 to two-year-old provision very shortsighted.

“Surely young families will be put off moving to Wooler, in favour of larger towns where all childcare needs can be accommodated, thus decreasing potential child numbers for the Wooler school system in the long run?”