Plans approved for education in the west

Cabinet today (Tuesday 10 July) approved a plan for the creation of a sustainable education system in the west of the county, by extending the age ranges of Greenhaugh, Bellingham, Wark, Kielder and Otterburn Schools and the closure of Bellingham Middle School.

A £5.1m injection of cash was approved to enable the creation of a 0-11 pre-school and primary provision in Bellingham, improve facilities for art and technology and provide community spaces.

Significant investment was also approved for Haydon Bridge High School, which will be used to rationalise buildings, better safeguard the site and upgrade the interior of the remaining buildings.

At its May meeting, Cabinet had instructed officers to develop options and indicative costings to replace the buildings of Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School, which form the Hadrian Learning Trust - It is estimated that this work would cost in the region of £36-40m.

Following approval of today’s report, a detailed business case will now be carried out to establish a preferred site and develop a robust project budget to provide new buildings for the Hadrian Learning Trust.   In order to carry out the necessary surveys, ground investigations and feasibility works prior to procurement, approval was given for the allocation of £250k.

During the recent consultations on age range change, support was expressed to bring together Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School onto one site. This would potentially create educational and operational benefit and provide good value for money. In light of this feedback, the scope of the project will also include single site options.

A preferred option will be identified for consideration by Cabinet in the Autumn.  An engagement exercise will take place allowing parents, pupils and stakeholders to express any concerns they have about the options under consideration during the development of the business case.

The report comes after an extensive consultation exercise with parents, schools and the wider community was carried out in light of a number of issues affecting education in the west, with some issues being outside of the council’s control.

This included the withdrawal of the Bright Tribe Trust from potential sponsorship of Haydon Bridge High School, the Department for Education’s request that the council look at the potential closure of that school, the Hadrian Trust consultation on forming an 11-18 school in Hexham and the financial difficulties forecast by several schools in the light of new national funding regulations.


Councillor Wayne Daley, Northumberland County Council Cabinet member for Children’s Services, said:  “I am incredibly proud of the hard work and efforts of officers that has gone in to developing the this report.  

“This is the first time in a generation that the Local Authority has taken control of the education system.

“The community was actively involved in shaping this plan and we have listened closely to what they have told us.  We know how important schools are to local communities and we have been able to consider all possible solutions available to us and as a result, retain parental choice in the west of the county.

“There was overwhelming support from head teachers to become primaries in the area.  We can now ensure children across the west have the best possible access to a first-class education.

”We know transport is a concern for parents and will be working closely with all those involved to develop a robust travel plan for each and every pupil affected.”

The age ranges will now be extended in Kielder, Bellingham, Otterburn and Greenhaugh village primary schools, ready for the start of the September 2019 school year.  However, officers felt it was not be appropriate to recommend any changes at West Woodburn First School at this time.

Cabinet also approved the non-statutory proposal to extend the age range of Wark Church of England First School as it is linked to the other proposals.
 
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