Anger over recommendations for schools

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A proposed change to two-tier for some of Ponteland’s schools has been criticised.

If the Northumberland County Council cabinet approves the recommendations at a meeting on Tuesday, Ponteland High School would extend its age range to 11 to 18 from September 1, 2019, while Ponteland First, Darras Hall and Heddon on the Wall St Andrew’s Church of England (CE) First Schools would extend their age ranges from three or four to 11, thus becoming primary schools from September 1, 2017.

Belsay First School, Stamfordham First School and Whalton CE First School will remain as first schools.

The governing body of Richard Coates CE Middle is considering its views on the school becoming a three or four to 11 primary school and the council expects that it will have received a final decision on this shortly.

The report does not include recommendations for Ponteland Middle School, which will be controlled by the Department for Education and stay open as an academy.

The proposals have been criticised by Verity Shepley, who resigned as vice chair of governors at Belsay First School last week as she “could no longer commit the overwhelming time required to try and get to the bottom of this mess created by the county council”.

She added: “I am utterly saddened that a hybrid two and three tier school system, which no-one was consulted on, is being recommended.

“This whole consultation process had been flawed from the outset, with the county council putting undue pressure on the first school headteachers to support the consultation without giving them the time to consult with their full governing bodies.

“Quite how it has managed to quantitatively and qualitatively analyse the thousands of responses and prepare a 25 page report (62 pages including appendices) within three working days beggars belief and is an insult to the 3,200 children and parents currently schooling their children within the Ponteland Partnership.

“The vast majority of parents within the partnership supported the three-tier system remaining. Northumberland County Council salaries are paid through the vast majority of these parents’ taxes.”

The proposals include details of £55.1million capital investment for new buildings would be constructed for the Ponteland Secondary School and Ponteland Primary School on a shared site, with leisure facilities.

New school buildings will also be developed for Darras Hall First School on its existing site.

Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at the county council, said: “Schools in the partnership asked us to run an open consultation and that is what we have done – we want to support schools to provide the best possible education for all children.”