Shake-up plans for schools are progressing

Proposals are moving forward to bring a two-tier education system to Northumberland villages.

Consultation has been carried out with parents, governors and teachers about plans to change Ellington, Pegswood and Linton first schools into primaries, serving pupils up to the age of 11.

The changes would come into effect from September next year as part of a wider shake-up of the Ashington Learning Partnership Trust, which would see Hirst Park and Bothal middle schools close, Ashington Wansbeck and Central First become primary schools, and Ashington High take pupils from the age of 11.

Estimates suggest that to accommodate the extra pupil numbers from extending the schools’ age ranges, building work costing £4.4million would have to be carried out.

It would include around £625,000 to address the under-sized hall space and create additional classrooms at Ellington, with £40,000 for Pegswood and £5,000 at Linton for minor modifications.

Now, after hearing there is widespread support in the villages for the plan, Northumberland County Council’s Policy Board has agreed to move to the next stage of the process, approving the publication of a Statutory Proposal for the three first schools.

It will also recommend to full council that the Medium Term Plan be increased to accommodate the capital costs, though it is expected that £3million of the total would be met through a grant from the Department for Education.

Lynemouth councillor Milburn Douglas, whose ward includes Ellington and Linton, said: “This will give the youngsters an extra two years in the village schools before they go on to the next stage of education at Ashington or Morpeth, and I think that is a good idea.

“We have got two wonderful schools in Linton and Ellington and I think parents will be reasonably happy with the situation. It seems to have gone down reasonably well.”

Pegswood member Alan Sambrook also welcomed the proposal.

“When the two-tier and three-tier education arguments were going on, these schools ended up in the Ashington partnership. It retained the middle schools, but we haven’t got the numbers of pupils now to run a three-tier system. The number of pupils is diminishing.

“I think this will be a good system and it will keep the local children in Pegswood longer, which makes the school more viable. As long as the school is being maintained in Pegswood then I’m for any form of change it takes.”

A final decision on the changes will be made in December.