SHOCKED pupils and parents of two Newcastle girls’ schools reacted with anger last night after learning by email that the two institutions are to merge.
The news was broken in an email sent out yesterday evening announcing that the independent Central Newcastle High and Church High schools that charge fees up to £3,583 a term, will join together to create a new school – Newcastle High School for Girls that will open in September 2014.
The proposal is to redevelop the Church High site on Tankerville Terrace, in the heart of Jesmond, into a multi-million pound state-of-the-art facility for use as the Senior School and Sixth Form.
Junior School pupils will be accommodated at the recently refurbished Central High Chapman House site.
The letter said: “We are very pleased to let you know that we have recently reached an agreement to create a new school.
“This is a unique opportunity to create the leading independent girls’ School in the North East offering unrivalled opportunities, which is why we decided that this would be the best way forward for our school and our girls.”
But last night The Journal was contacted by a number of parents, furious at the news and the way they were informed. One said: “I’m a parent and my girls go to Church High, I went there too, some of us pay £3,000 per term and it’s been appallingly communicated, we just got an email. The girls are heartbroken, the schools are arch rivals. That’s been the same for years, it’s so sad and it’s the end of an era.”
A mother of a Central High pupil added: “I am furious. There has been a total lack of consultation and we have had no chance to ask questions.
“My daughter is in year 11 and the timing of this also means that I have no choice of taking her away as the open days and entrance tests to other sixth forms have already been.”
Central High headteacher Hilary French will become the head of the new school. Joy Gatenby, head of Church High, will stay on full-time as an executive adviser to the new School until July 2015, when she will retire.
The new head of the combined Junior School will be Angela Charlton, currently head of Central High’s Junior School. Judith Cunningham, the head of Church High Junior School, has already announced her retirement.
The new school, educating girls aged from three to 18, will be a member of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) a network of independent girls’ schools, with 24 schools and two academies in England and Wales. Central High is already a member of the trust.
Trust chief executive Helen Fraser said: “The Trust is financially strong and we are always looking to grow. We approached Church High just before Christmas and found the two schools had a huge amount in common.
“We have informed parents and staff as soon as the strategic decision was taken to merge. This is a very exciting opportunity for girls education in Newcastle and the North East.”
A NEW APPROACH
HILARY French, who is also president of the Girls’ School Association, said yesterday that new approaches are needed to meet the complex needs of the modern world.
Launching her GSA presidential agenda for 2013, Mrs French encouraged parents to play an active part in the debate over how the curriculum is shaped in the years to come.
She said: "I believe we are at a major crossroads in education.
"We cannot continue to ignore the signs that very different skills and approaches from educators will be required to meet the demands of life and work in the mid-21st Century.
"We need to push towards a big picture review and evaluation of what we are doing in schools."
Mrs French was speaking at the first in a programme of events at Central Newcastle High designed to focus on issues around the education of girls.