THE end of the school term marked the start of a new era as hundreds of pupils prepare to move to Ashington’s new academy.
Parents, children and teachers said their goodbyes at two Newbiggin schools that have now closed their doors for the final time as part of the £48m education shake-up.
Moorside and Windsor First Schools have become redundant under the plans, which has created the all-age Northumberland Church of England Academy, based in Ashington.
Tears flowed at morning assemblies in the seaside town as pupils and colleagues said emotional farewells to staff members who have decided the closures are the right time to call it a day and retire.
Hundreds of youngsters cleared their desks and trooped out of the classrooms for good as the bell rang for the final time at the two schools, which have been fixtures in the town for more than 90 years.
In September, the 500 pupils from the two schools will come together under one roof at the academy’s state-of-the-art Grace Darling Campus, which has been built on the site of the former Newbiggin Middle School.
Old registers and punishment books, faded class photos and many other artefacts have been uncovered as staff prepared for the school closures in recent weeks. The two schools joined forces to stage a joint exhibition last month, showcasing their history and marking their looming closure.
Since the Church of England Academy was launched two years ago, 283-pupil Moorside First has been known as the Jackie Milburn Campus and 215-pupil Windsor First as John Dobson Campus.
The current head at Jackie Milburn, Paul Craig, has been appointed as the primary director at the new Grace Darling Campus, which will be formally handed over next month.
He said: “As we have been clearing out cupboards and desks in preparation for closing we have found all sorts of little gems, such as Mr Waller’s Register of Children Who Can’t Behave. Some of it we will be taking with us to the new school.
“It is quite an emotional day for people today, and there were lots of tears this morning in assembly from both staff and pupils.
“It is a big wrench for them to leave, but the buildings are not fit for 21st Century education. We will be moving into a fantastic new facility and we have been promoting the fact that this is something new and exciting to look forward to.
“Newbiggin is a very close-knit community, where people stay for a long time, and a lot of parents came along this morning with cameras to take pictures of the children outside the school for the last time.”
Moorside First opened in July 1915, when it was known as the Colliery School because it catered for the children of workers at the local pits. Windsor First opened a few years later.
Both are now surplus to requirements and their future will be decided by the county council.
Two more schools in the Northumberland Church of England Academy pyramid – the former Coulson Park and Welbeck First Schools in Ashington – will close at Easter next year.
They will then combine as a new primary school on the town’s Josephine Butler Campus.
The 2,700-student academy – which is sponsored by the Church of England and the Duke of Northumberland – will then be fully operational on five separate sites in Ashington, Newbiggin and Lynemouth.