MP secures top talks on academy

A worried mp is seeking top-level assurances that plans for a £25m academy school in a Northumberland town will not threaten the future of its existing high school.

A worried mp is seeking top-level assurances that plans for a £25m academy school in a Northumberland town will not threaten the future of its existing high school.

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell is asking Education Secretary Alan Johnson for a guarantee that the proposed academy in Blyth will not put at risk the viability of Blyth Community College by robbing it of pupils and income.

Mr Campbell has secured a meeting with Mr Johnson later this month at which he will outline his growing concerns about the likely impact on the Community College of an academy sponsored by businessman Sir Peter Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation.

The £15m Community College was opened five years ago by merging Blyth's two high schools but Mr Campbell and the school's governors fear it will suffer badly if a rival academy school is built in the town. There are worries that the academy will cream off the best pupils and turn the Community College into a "sink school", at a time when its exam results are improving and budget problems have been overcome.

Mr Campbell is part of a campaign fighting the academy proposal, which is being promoted by Northumberland County Council as part of its schools reorganisation plans for Blyth.

Yesterday he said: "I will be meeting Alan Johnson after Easter.

"As far as I am concerned, the county council are doing this as a way of getting money for shifting to two-tier education, and they are blinded by that. I want to make sure that the minister knows exactly what they are doing and what the implications are for Blyth Community College. I will be asking him for a guarantee that the college is safe and will not be hit by surplus places and a financial loss."

Eric Young, chairman of the governors at the community college, said: "There is no doubt we would lose out if an academy was built. We have got rid of our budget deficit, our GCSE results have improved by 16% and we are bidding for specialist arts and technology college status. The whole thing is on the up at present and everyone is concerned at the impact of an academy opening up here."

A county council spokesman said: "If reorganisation takes place in Blyth there would be enough children aged 11 to 16 to justify two secondary schools.

"Other authorities have also experienced a positive impact on neighbouring schools when an academy has been opened."

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