Consultation to begin on schools move in Ashington

Councillors have agreed to begin consultation on moves which would see two tier education introduced in Ashington

Lisa Pollard, from Ashington, with her daughter Chanelle, 6, outside Ashington Central First School
Lisa Pollard, from Ashington, with her daughter Chanelle, 6, outside Ashington Central First School

Councillors have agreed to begin consultation on plans to extend the age range of three Northumberland first schools as part of a switch to two-tier education.

But a parent at another school involved in the proposed change has launched a petition against plans to expand its age range.

As reported in Wednesday’s Journal, the Federated Governing Body of the Ashington Learning Partnership (ALP) Trust has already agreed to begun consultation on plans to close the town’s Hirst Park and Bothal middle schools, with effect from the end of the 2014/2015 school year.

The trust is also planning to extend the age ranges of the town’s Central and Wansbeck first schools from three to nine, to two to 11 from the start of the 2015/16 academic year.

Furthermore, the age range of Ashington High is proposed to change from 13 to 18 to 11 to 18.

Northumberland County Council also came forward with proposals to allow statutory consultation on plans to extend the age ranges of Ellington, Pegswoodand Linton First School to eleven.

The proposals would create a two-tier, primary/secondary school organisation system across the entire Ashington Partnership of schools, with all buildings retained.

The reasoning behind the move has been explained by Chris Smith, chair of governors at Ashington Learning Partnership, in a statement on each of the schools’ websites.

In it, he said: “The rationale behind the proposal is that of extending provision and driving continuous and sustained improvement for the benefit of families across Ashington and the surrounding areas, not just for the next few years but for many years to come.

“The ALP recognises that it cannot stand still and must lead change in partnership with local people and other organisations.

“The proposed change involves moving from a three-tier system of schooling to two-tier by using all existing main school sites and with effect from September 2015.

“The Ashington Learning Partnership is committed to delivering the best possible education for children and young people.

“This is an exciting time for the partnership with already good school provision and a fierce determination to improve further by creating ‘outstanding’ schools.

“The ALP will involve as many people as possible in the forthcoming consultation process.”

Councillor Peter Jackson
Councillor Peter Jackson
 

The Journal reported earlier this week how parents at town schools have already voiced concerns over the moves. Lisa Pollard, whose child attends Central First, asked “why try and fix something that’s not broken?”

Another parent told how she had only recently moved her son from Guide Post middle to Bothal after the former was earmarked for closure, only for the latter to suffer the same fate.

The county council’s policy board approved the recommendations at a meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a fellow parent at Central First has set up a petition calling for the school to remain as part of a three-tier system, which 106 people have signed.

Kirsty Ricalton, 36, whose seven-year-old daughter is a pupil there, explained: “We already have a two tier system in Ashington and the ALP is going to take the parents’ opinions away to choose what education we can offer our kids.

“I have a daughter that goes to Central and step grandkids and they would be going to Hirst Park just like the rest of the family.

“They are trying to fix something that’s not broken, it has worked for so many years.”

Policy board member Coun Peter Jackson meanwhile last night voiced concerns over the number of school partnerships across the county seeking to move from three to two tiers.

“I feel uncomfortable with this move for two tier education which seems to be coming into place,” he said. “(There) may be some hidden agenda.”

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