Northumberland County Council is to push ahead with further consultation on its preferred model for primary and secondary schools in the Alnwick Partnership, but assurances have been made that any alternatives put forward will be considered.
Proposing the recommendations to consult on a two-tier option, which would see the closure of four middle schools and two first schools, Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services, reiterated that this process was initiated by the schools themselves.
“There were different views and strongly-held views about what should happen, but there was agreement that the consultation needed to happen,” he said. “We are not driving a process of change, but we do have a responsibility for the education of young people.
“We don’t want to impose some kind of top-down organisation. We do have a responsibility to put forward options for the long-term viability of our schools.”
A likely alternative that will be put forward, that was discussed at two previous meetings at County Hall today, is for a mixed economy, allowing Alnwick to convert to a primary and secondary set-up while the rural areas such as Seahouses can keep their three-tier structure.
Coun Arckless, as well as council leader Grant Davey, emphasised that the reorganisation wasn’t a party-politcal issue, evidenced by the differing views of two Conservative councillors.
Coun John Woodman, ward member for Seahouses, raised concerns about the loss of the middle school to the community at large. “There’s a danger it could tip the village in the wrong long-term direction,” he said.
Alnwick councillor Gordon Castle said: “The consequences of not taking this decision are dire. While the solution might not come before you again, the problems surely will.”
The opposition leaders Peter Jackson and Jeff Reid both raised concerns and abstained from the vote, but the recommendations were passed.