Saturday, 7 February 2015

Update: Haydon Bridge High School

The pupils at Haydon Bridge deserve the best possible education. I visited the school just last month and met some of the pupils and teachers.

This report is undoubtedly a setback for the school, and will understandably be a cause of great concern to parents, staff and the wider community. The report is here:

It is important now that the County Council takes the right action, in consultation with parents, to get to the school back on track.

I was at Haydon Bridge High School just 3 weeks ago to meet with the acting Headteacher, Helen McCormick, and several of the teachers.

It is worth reading Helen's recent comments:
"This is obviously a disappointing outcome and one we are all working hard to rectify. Many of the key issues had already been identified and were being tackled before the inspection but we weren’t able to demonstrate enough impact in time. We are deeply committed and firmly focussed on moving the school forward so that we can ensure the best education and care for all the pupils.”

I was informed of the contents of the Ofsted report in outline on Monday, albeit I was in Westminster. I was not informed of the meeting the school called for parents that day, until later that day itself, although one of my local county councillors was able to attend keep me updated on the discussion that took place.

I have met with many of the governors of Haydon Bridge High School and, of course, my other 45+ schools down the years, albeit I do not know and have not met the present chair of the governors at Haydon Bridge.

The view of the Ofsted report, and the view of the Northumberland County Council, is that the actions of the governors has been unsatisfactory for some time, and that they have not addressed the problems of the school. I regret to say that it does appear that the governors have not previously taken the advice of Northumberland County Council, who are ultimately responsible for the school as the Local Education Authority.

In term of going forward my office and I will be keeping a very close eye on the situation and will help in anyway we can. Discussion have already taken place with the Northumberland County Council's corporate Director of Children's Services, and a meeting will take place in a few weeks to assess the situation.

In the immediate term the County Council has applied to the Secretary of State for Education for permission to dismiss the current governors and replace them with what is called an IEB - an Interim Executive Board.

I, and others, have seen this IEB part of the process before with Prudhoe Community High School in 2013-2014; the IEB was able to turn around Prudhoe without further action. I went to Prudhoe High School on Friday for a long scheduled meeting and met once again with Deborah Reeman the outstanding new Headteacher. Prudhoe is a good example of an IEB coming in and providing the guidance, support and expertise that is needed where school governors get into difficulties.

An IEB effectively provides the outside specialist help that a "special measures" school needs. I have already been in touch with the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, to request the application for an IEB is now considered as a matter of urgency, given the Ofsted Inspection in December, and the actual report, published this last week.

I will be working with the NCC and the DfE to ensure that this is done as quickly as possible.

If anyone has any questions please do get in touch 01434 603 777 or email me at

For more background details on the issue see here: