Call for a re-think in educational provision in the west of Northumberland

The Leader of Northumberland County Council, Cllr Grant Davey, and Cabinet member Cllr Robert Arckless are calling for a re-think in educational provision in the west of the County.


Following an Inspection in 2014, Haydon Bridge High School was deemed to require special measures and in June 2015, the Regional Schools Commissioner decided that the Bright Tribe Trust was a suitable sponsor for the school and discussions began with them. They were accepted as a suitable sponsor by the Interim Executive Board (IEB) of the school and in October 2015 academy orders were served, beginning the process of transfer.


However, in a letter sent today to Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, the local authority has asked for the academy orders to be withdrawn.


The local authority is frustrated with delays as the funding agreement has yet to be signed by the Department for Education and the Bright Tribe Trust, which means the school remains in the control of the local authority, without a confirmed date of transfer.


The delays have been caused by an extended period of ‘due diligence’ from the Bright Tribe Trust and many unresolved issues including; the transfer of land between the North Pennine Learning Trust and the Bright Tribe Trust, and agreement on the status of Ridley Hall, the boarding facility, which the Bright Tribe Trust do not wish to take over.


Cllr Davey said: “Over the last 18 months the County Council has remained fully committed to fulfilling its duty to take all reasonable steps  to facilitate the academy conversion. This extended process of negotiation has been frustrating and has not aided improvement.


“We have decided to seek an alternative solution because we do not believe we can let the current situation continue.”


As an alternative to forced academisation, the local authority is suggesting that a process of consultation with parents, pupils, staff, governors and the wider community takes place which could include merging Haydon Bridge High School with Queen Elizabeth High School (Academy) in Hexham. Alternative models would also be considered as part of this consultation and it would provide an opportunity for a comprehensive evaluation of all the options for the two communities.  


ClIr Robert Arckless said: “Delivering a good quality education for children in Northumberland remains a priority for us.  We feel this proposal, if agreed, will provide a more sustainable solution and deliver better educational outcomes for the long term future of education in Haydon Bridge and Hexham.


“If changes were agreed, we believe they could start to be implemented as early as September 2017 when appropriate temporary transport arrangements and resources could be put in place at Queen Elizabeth High School. A longer term solution would be planned, with significantly enhanced facilities, to be in place no later than 2020.


“We would like to make a significant investment in schools infrastructure in the west of the county as we have already done in other parts of Northumberland, a wider consultation would provide us with an opportunity to establish a system and infrastructure that will last for many years.”

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