Councillors are being recommended to back a change to the education system in the Ponteland Partnership next week, which will see a switch to a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools for some but not all.
A report to next Tuesday's meeting of Northumberland County Council's decision-making cabinet concludes that an analysis of the recent consultation, which ended last Wednesday, 'has led council officers to recommend a model for schools in Ponteland which broadly supports the views of the individual governing bodies'.
However, it also notes that due to the recent academy order for Ponteland Community Middle School, 'it is likely that the school will become an academy and will be removed from local-authority control before the start of the autumn term 2016. Therefore, the recommendations for the Ponteland Partnership of schools set out below cannot include recommendations for Ponteland Community Middle School (academy)'.
Cabinet members are likely to vote to publish the necessary statutory proposals to:
Extend the age range of Ponteland Community High School from 13 to 18 to 11 to 18 with effect from September 1, 2019, together with a new build;
Extend the age range of Ponteland First School from three to nine to three to 11 with effect from September 1, 2017, together with a new build;
Extend the age range of Darras Hall First School from four to nine to four to 11 with effect from September 1, 2017, in a new building on its existing site;
Support the extension of the age range of Heddon on the Wall St Andrew’s CE First School from three to nine to three to 11 with effect from September 1, 2017, with the extension of the building to accommodate an additional 60 pupils.
Meanwhile the governing body of Richard Coates CE Middle School carried out a consultation concurrently with the council on extending its age range, but it has not formally approved this proposal yet. A decision will have been made by next Tuesday's meeting.
Belsay First School, Stamfordham First School and Whalton CE First School will remain as first schools.
Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: "We have listened very carefully to all the views expressed. I am delighted that so many people have engaged in the process, showing their passion for children's education.
"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.
"As a council, we don't have a policy on the form of school organisation. Our overall aim is to make sure that our young people get the best possible education, in the best possible environments. We simply want to support schools to enable them to improve standards."
The proposals includes details of £55.1million capital investment that the council would make if agreed. New buildings would be constructed for a 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.