Primary plans for a trio of village schools

New proposals for an age range shake up at three first schools in Northumberland have been unveiled.

Pupils going to Ellington, Linton and Pegswood will remain there until the age of 11 if the change from a three-tier system to two-tier is given the green light.

The county council’s policy board will discuss the matter at a meeting this afternoon and members will vote on the recommendation to carry out consultation on the plans to extend the ages of those attending Ellington and Pegswood First Schools from three to nine to three to 11 and Linton First School from four to nine to four to 11.

If approved, council officers would hold separate meetings for staff, governors, parents and the public.

The three first schools are part of the Ashington Partnership.

The other five – Central First School, Wansbeck First School, Bothal Middle School, Hirst Park Middle School and Ashington High School Sports College – are located within the Ashington town area.

They have been in a hard federation, named the Ashington Learning Partnership (ALP), since 2007.

The governing body of the ALP has already agreed to consult on proposals to close Hirst Park Middle School and Bothal Middle School (pupils from the three village schools currently feed into Bothal Middle) and extend the age ranges of its two first schools and the high school.

It has previously set out its ambition to create a primary and secondary school structure and representatives met with the headteachers and chairs of governors at Ellington, Linton and Pegswood First Schools in late 2013 to first discuss the proposed changes.

The new set-up would take effect from September 1, 2015.

The plans have been welcomed by county councillor for Pegswood Alan Sambrook, who is also a Pegswood Parish councillor.

He said: “This change would be a positive move for all three schools as they wouldn’t have to worry about school numbers and would be able to fully concentrate on developing even further.

“It would safeguard these schools and I believe that keeping the pupils on the same site for a further two years would improve their education standards.

“I support the two-tier system because children avoid the disruption of moving to middle school, where in some cases it takes them a long time to adjust.”

The report by county council officers John Clark and Lorraine Fife estimates that the cost of the required capital works across the Ashington Partnership schools would be £4.4million, although £3million of this total would be met through the Department for Education grant to expand primary places.

Of the three village schools, the report says: “There is sufficient capacity at both Linton and Pegswood First Schools to accommodate the additional pupils, although a little capital investment may be required to make minor modifications necessary to accommodate the older pupils.

“Ellington First School could adapt an existing stand-alone mobile unit to accommodate Years 5 and 6, but this proposal would not be acceptable to the school as it would mean the loss of its community facility.

“Therefore, building options will be developed to address the under-sized hall space and the need to create additional classrooms.”