Image demonstrating Options Set to be Considered on Education in the West

Options Set to be Considered on Education in the West

Following statutory consultation on proposals to extend the age ranges of Greenhaugh, Bellingham, Wark, Kielder, Otterburn and West Woodburn First Schools, and to close Bellingham Middle School, a report published today (Thursday 28 June 2018) provides options for the creation of a sustainable education system in the west of the county.


Cabinet will meet to consider the recommendations in the report on 10 July.  It outlines a proposal to invest £5.1m in education to create clear educational pathways across the Haydon Bridge Partnership, while retaining choice for parents in the west of the county.  


This investment would support the creation of a 0-11 pre-school and primary provision in Bellingham that would strengthen early years education in the area, improve facilities for art and technology and provide community spaces that could be used by all schools to deliver an enhanced primary curriculum.


Haydon Bridge High School would also see significant investment in order to rationalise buildings, better safeguard the site and upgrade the interior of the remaining buildings.


At its May meeting, Cabinet 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.


If the latest report is approved by Cabinet, a detailed business case would then be carried out to establish a preferred site and a robust project budget would be developed to provide new buildings for the Hadrian Learning Trust.  It is estimated that this work would cost in the region of £36-40m. Approval is also requested for the allocation of £250k from the Medium Term Plan to carry out the necessary surveys, ground investigations and feasibility works in order to provide cost surety, prior to procurement.


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


The proposals would also see the age ranges extended in Kielder, Bellingham, Otterburn and Greenhaugh village primary schools.  Officers felt it would not be appropriate to recommend any changes at West Woodburn First School at this time.


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


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:  “We know how important schools are to local communities and by talking to everyone with an interest in education -  whether that’s parents, teachers or young people themselves - we have been able to consider all possible solutions available to us.

“We are now in a position to consider options that will ensure children across the west have the best possible access to a first-class education.


“As well considering options on a new school building we have also identified the need for improvements in other school buildings in West Northumberland. Providing the very best learning environment for our young people is a priority for us.”


If Cabinet approval is granted, work will be carried out to develop a business case and identify a preferred option 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.

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