I met David Laws, MP, the Minister for Education, today to discuss the ways in which Hexham's Queen Elizabeth High School can be at the front of the queue for any future money for rebuilding or improving the school - using central government money.
We have successfully won the case for a rebuild of Prudhoe High School last year and it has been made clear to me by many parents, children and teachers that Hexham QEHS needs investment. Clearly these are difficult times to be pitching for further capital funds but if you do not ask you do not get. David was very helpful on this issue and made it clear that his department is conducting an assessment of all school buildings, including Hexham, this summer. From that assessment our needs will be clear and the bidding process can begin.
Separately I urged the Minister to come to Northumberland and meet local Headteachers himself and see both the amazing success of our schools and the problems that they face in providing education in a largely rural context. I am hopeful that he will be visiting in the near future this summer, and will let local heads know if and when he is coming. At that meeting I know he wishes to meet with Northumberland County Council officers to discuss amongst other things the Northumberland approach to the Local Government Pension Scheme and the bizarre approach of NCC to pension contributions by schools who are academies or who wish to become academies. I again raised this today. One thing is clear - the overcharging approach of NCC is unacceptable. Ministers agree. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, agrees. The department for Communities and Local Government agree. This unfair approach will change, and it will change soon.