Where possible I believe we should keep open and support local schools rather than close them. I have seen the difference the teachers and support from Bright tribe have made at the Haltwhistle campus and the Haydon Bridge High School, and I believe they should be allowed to continue the job of turning these schools around.
One of my abiding memories is learning that Allendale Middle School was going to be closed in 2013 by the Northumberland County Council, when I read it in the Hexham Courant. There was no warning, or even discussion with the elected MP. That move has had a knock on effect ever since, where the NCC effectively forced a two tier system on schools in the West of Northumberland, meaning a split mixed system of 2 and 3 tier in tynedale.
Now we face a proposal from the County Council to close Haydon Bridge High School and merge it with QEHS initially at QEHS and then by 2020 on a single new mega school site on land in the West End of Hexham. (The plan does not address what would happen to Haltwhistle Middle and First schools if Bright Tribe are prevented from proceeding as planned for over a year.)
I have spoken at length to parents, pupils, teachers, and local Haydon Bridge community leaders over the last 48 hours. I spent Friday and parts of Saturday in Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge. I went, once again, to Haydon Bridge High School on Friday morning. I can only be honest and say that nobody I spoke in the last 48 hours supported the County Council's proposal to close the school.
The alternative is to keep Haydon Bridge High School open with a sponsor in Bright Tribe.
I have visited both of Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge schools and met with teachers, pupils, and parents and more at both schools since Bright Tribe became involved. There is a big collective effect that has gone on by everyone, but some people deserve to be named. I have been very impressed with the difference that they and their outstanding key teachers are making at both the first and middle schools in Haltwhistle. The change in the school, the change in the pupils, and the measurable statistics since their arrival are clear.
This is my report of my recent visit to Haltwhistle school earlier in the term http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/really-positive-morning-spent-last.html
I have spoken to many of the pupils and parents and they are delighted in the change. It is all hands to the pump, but you do need good leaders. So special praise is due to the new upper school head, Paul Sampson and the new lower school head Susie Drake, at Haltwhistle. Likewise, Mrs Helen McCormick, Acting Headteacher, and Mr Darren Glover, Consultant Headteacher (Bright Tribe) at Haydon Bridge. Dr Judith Greene is the executive principal for both schools;she has an outstanding track record and she and her team are passionate about improving education in the west.
There is no doubt that this last term Haydon Bridge High School is working way better than before. Teachers are more organised and lessons are better planned. Pupils are definitely happier. Attendance figures are better. Problems with some pupils behaviour has been resolved.
It is my understanding that the original plans to keep Haydon Bridge High School open with Bright Tribe as its sponsor are well advanced and continuing. The County Council allowed Haydon Bridge High School to get itself into difficulties, I believe Judith, Darren, Helen and the Bright Tribe support team can sort this school out based on what I have seen, heard, and the measurable stats. The alternative proposal by NCC to close Haydon Bridge High School, and Ridley Hall, and move 500 pupils and teachers to Hexham onto an already cramped Hexham QEHS site with no spare classroom capacity is a massive undertaking. And all this in 9 months?
My view is simple; I believe we should keep open and support local schools rather than close them, and I have seen first hand the positive difference the new team brought in by Bright Tribe are making in supporting Haydon Bridge and Haltwhistle.
The key thing now is we hear from the staff, pupils and parents at all the affected schools. I will update when I know more from the Northumberland County Council.