Argument over education plans

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson

A county council political group has said Conservative group leader Peter Jackson, who represents a Ponteland ward, has ‘questions to answer’ at consultation events for a potential shake-up of education in the area.

Parents, governors, relevant organisations and members of the public can have their say over proposals to move to a two-tier system from the current three-tier set up.

This came about following a request from the six first schools in the partnership, but there is already considerable opposition, in particular to the possible closure of Ponteland Community Middle School.

Coun Jackson, who represents Ponteland South with Heddon, has previously criticised the Labour administration at County Hall for the ‘unseemly haste’ of going ahead with the consultation, which runs until May 11.

But the Labour group has hit back and urged him to make his position clear after the Government announced plans for all schools to become academies by 2022 last month.

The county council-run consultation events to speak to education officers are taking place on Saturday at Ponteland High School (10am to 3pm) and Thursday, April 28, at Ponteland Memorial Hall (3pm to 7pm).

A Labour group spokesman said: “The Conservative Government’s plans to make all schools academies raises key questions for Coun Jackson, Northumberland Conservatives and their campaign to politicise the current Ponteland schools consultation.

“He needs to be straight with parents and answer whether he thinks it’s possible to retain a three-tier education system if all schools become academies and he’s got a chance to answer that at the upcoming consultation events.

“He needs to answer the questions, stop scaremongering about the administration’s intentions and allow Ponteland parents to come to their own decision.”

In response, Coun Jackson said: “To be quite clear, Government policy has nothing to do with this attempt to force change upon our community.

“There was no reason whatsoever for the Labour-run county council to push this process through in such as short timescale, pitting school versus school and community versus community.

“All of the parents who have contacted me are frustrated that they are not being given any meaningful information, so I would urge all parents and residents to attend the consultation events and make their views very clear to those running this process.”