Consultation begins on academy proposal

Ponteland High School headteacher Kieran McGrane.
Ponteland High School headteacher Kieran McGrane.

Five schools in Ponteland could join forces as a multi-academy trust (MAT) proposal has been put forward.

If it is progressed and approved, with a consultation period now under way, Ponteland High School, the two schools in the Ponteland village area and schools in Darras Hall and Heddon-on-the-Wall would form a single trust company with a single board of directors and it would be funded directly by the Government.

As part of the re-organisation to a two-tier system, three of those involved will be called Ponteland Primary School, Darras Hall Primary School and Heddon St Andrew’s CofE Primary School from September.

Richard Coates CofE School is transitioning to a primary school. From September, Years 5, 6, 7 and 8 will continue to operate in the purpose-built middle school and the younger primary aged children (nursery up to Year 4) will be accommodated separately in a refurbished area.

The consultation runs until Monday, June 19, and it includes a meeting for parents and carers at Ponteland High School on Monday, May 22, from 6pm.

This will involve informal table-top discussions where representatives of the governing body and senior leadership team will be discussing academy status with attendees.

A letter has been sent out to parents of students at the school by headteacher Kieran McGrane. It includes a response form to put forward their views.

In the letter, Mr McGrane said: ‘There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating clear benefits when groups of schools work collaboratively within a MAT arrangement.

‘During the consultation period on school organisation last year, we were clear about the educational advantages of moving to a primary-secondary model.

‘Since that time we have continued to work closely with our partner first/primary schools and believe that now is the right time to consider forming a MAT.

‘Over the last 12 to 18 months, our governing body has continued to revisit the issue of academies and MATs and whether or not this model was in the best interests of the children, teachers and staff at our school.

‘They believe it is and have voted unanimously to explore this in more detail.

‘Governors would now like to consult more broadly with parents as to the best way forward for the school and the other schools involved are also consulting on forming the MAT at the same time.

‘Other first/primary schools in the partnership have concluded that now is not the right time for them to be involved in the formal consultation, however they would be welcome to enter into discussions about joining the MAT at any time in the future’.

Mr McGrane told the Herald that discussions with staff and unions have also got under way.

In 2009, Ponteland High School announced a proposal to become a foundation school with trust status, but it was abandoned a year later.

Campaigners against this change set-up a petition and they claimed that more than half of the school’s staff at the time signed it.

Ponteland Middle School was earmarked for closure under the re-organisation plans, but it is staying open after being granted an academy order by the Government.