Headteachers proposing to move their school system from three to two tiers say they want outstanding education in their town.
The Federated Governing Body of the Ashington Learning Partnership (ALP) Trust has begun consultation on plans to move its five schools from a system of first middle and high to primary and secondary. The proposals would see the closure of Hirst Park and Bothal middle schools, with effect from the end of the 2014/2015 school year.
They would also see the extension of the age ranges of Central and Wansbeck first schools from three to nine, to two to 11 from the start of the 2015/16 academic year. The age range of Ashington High is proposed to change from 13 to 18 to 11 to 18.
The proposals have sparked some concerns among parents at the schools, with petitions launched and questions over the reasoning behind the move, the need for it and the impact on children.
Yesterday, the trust’ three principals, Rob Kitching, of the high school, Andrew Roberts, from Wansbeck and Bothal, and David Godfrey, from Hirst Park and Central, explained their thinking.
The men told they had been considering the move since the trust was established seven years ago and opted to proceed six months ago, having been given the support of officials at Northumberland County Council.
The trio revealed how one of the main reasons for the planned switch is the fact that in the current three tier system, two key stage age ranges of the national curriculum are split between different schools. The principals say a two-tier system would allow key stages to be taught “under one roof.”
They said all five school sites would be used in the new structure and they aimed to retain staff.
They also revealed plans to invest £3.75m in upgrading the high school to take extra children, and further funding in upgrading the two first schools.
Four of the schools are ranked good by Ofsted and Mr Kitching said: “We have gone through a journey of getting the schools to good, the next part of the journey is to get to outstanding.”
A final decision will be made by the county council’s policy board in December.