Parents angry after approval for two-tier

Members of the Parents of Ponteland Schools group outside County Hall on Tuesday.
Members of the Parents of Ponteland Schools group outside County Hall on Tuesday.

A parents’ group has spoken of its disappointment after a proposal for the vast majority of Ponteland schools to move to a two-tier system was given the green light.

As a result of the backing of Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, the process for setting up the system of primary and secondary schools will begin this summer if final approval is granted in July following a statutory consultation.

Ponteland Community Middle School was facing closure in the initial proposals, but it has been granted an academy order and removed from local-authority control.

Thousands of people backed the campaign by Parents of Ponteland Schools (POPs) to keep the middle school open and retain the three-tier system.

One of its leading members, Hermina Ely, said: “At the meetings on Tuesday, there was frighteningly little ‘scrutiny’ of the process, which has been the overriding concern of parents and governors from the start and the subject of many complaints.

“As parents, we have fears for our first schools. They now have potentially too much capacity. Who will go?”

Referring to Belsay First School, which was one of the schools that was set to stay in the three-tier system but then asked to be part of the two-tier set-up after learning of the hybrid proposal, she said: “I’m desperately sad for that community and what the county council in this consultation has done to it.

“A fair consultation process with options and no bias could have dispelled so much parental angst.”

She added: “The proposals stated that they would have implications for sports and recreation. Yet querying the consultation of relevant stakeholders and sports provision by Peter Jackson was stopped in its tracks by (council leader) Grant Davey.

“As too was the site – flood plain and traffic implications. The county council can’t have it both ways.

“Our high school gets a new build, which is great as it was always win-win for them, but what will it really be like? What will our community lose out on?

“We hope that they will push for something more than average and more than ‘make do’ – that is the real risk all of our schools now face.

“We are confident that Ponteland Community Middle School will do well, with the freedom and flexibility that academy status will allow it and the strength and backing of parents that it always has had and will continue to have.”