Sunday, 1 November 2015

Weekend Read: The future of our schools and a fresh start for Haydon Bridge High


The Department of Education has officially given the go ahead for Haydon Bridge High School to be converted into an academy, and has appointed Bright Tribe as its sponsor.

Work will now begin on establishing a detailed project plan for the school, and conducting due diligence, with a view to the new school opening sometime in the first half of 2016. I have strongly backed the move, and unfortunately have had to point out the context of the move - the poor record of the County Council in managing education across Northumberland.

Last year's figures show Northumberland County Council at a shocking 132nd out of 151 Local Authorities in the entire country for GCSE performance. North Tyneside is the highest in the region at 34th place, while neighbouring Durham is at 46th and Gateshead is 63rd in the list. I am sad to say that the standard of education under the County Council's control is simply not up to standard and it has been failing too many of our students.

It can not be acceptable for Northumberland to be ranked in the bottom 20% of all Councils in the country for education. It is shameful we have seen so many local authority schools go into special
measures here in Northumberland. The County Council urgently needs to get its act together. What has really frustrated me has been the politcal games being played around academies, when the County Council's own record is so poor. What matters is getting the very best start for our pupils and that should be the focus for the County Council.

If a sponsor for Haydon Bridge had not been found then the County Council would have had to close the school down. Instead, the new leadership of Bright Tribe offer Haydon Bridge High School a fresh start, a new focus and support, and the opportunity to get the school back on track.

This change will take power away from the failed political leadership at County Hall and hand it to a strong local headteacher who will have more powers over finances and the curriculum. I myself have visited many fantastic Academy schools across the North East and have always been impressed by the improvements a strong and determined Headteacher is able to make.
If anyone really thinks its acceptable our schools were ranked in the bottom 20% in the country, some 96 places below areas such as Tower Hamlets, then yes they should champion the Council led status quo.

If, like me, local people think that is wrong and our pupils could be achieving so much more then it is clear the academies route is the right way forward.

I will, of course, give anyone credit where it is due and with Key Stage 1 we are seeing progress made. Northumberland was the only authority which was above the England average for attainment in both phonics and all subjects in Key Stage 1.

In Key Stage 2, pupils attainment remains above average in reading, writing, mathematics and science although there is much work to do on in reading and mathematics which is less than seen nationally. Pupils who learn well in primary and first school are more likely to succeed in high school and their life chances similarly are improved. The strong outcomes for pupils in Northumberland in these early stages leave them well placed as they move on to the higher phase of education.  It is vital
now that the County Council puts aside it's political differences on academies and structures and focuses it's efforts on improving our High and Secondary schools.