Friday, 16 December 2016

First and Primary Schools Update - slowly but surely seeing good progress at Whitfield, Haltwhistle, Adderlane and other schools

I wanted to update constituents on some developments that are happening in our local schools, with especially good news to report about Whitfield Church of England Primary School. I will blog separately on the Fairer Funding settlement, and the issues on other bigger schools, but this blog is focused very much on first and primary schools. As always, I would make the point that I do not run the schools - that is the responsibility of the Northumberland County Council, save when the schools go into special measures. Sometimes I do wish I did run the schools. I do, however, do all I can to help the individual head teachers, governors, parents and pupils in whatever way I can. I have over 45 schools in my area and am in regular contact by visits and phone conversations with many of these. As always, my door is open.

Whitfield Primary:
Whitfield Primary has clearly had its problems over the last two years, but I am now 100% confident that the school will survive, will be open in September 2017 and beyond, and also prospering.
The new academic year has started very brightly. There is a new team of Governors, led by Mrs Amanda Stembridge, who are clearly working really well together.

Whitfield Primary now has an Academy Order in place, and The Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust has been approved as a sponsor. The Good Shepherd has experience running four other Church of England Primary Schools in Cumbria. While there is still work to be done before Whitfield Primary formally opens as an academy (likely to be in Spring 2017), the school will be able to draw on The Good Shepherd’s resources, expertise and support, whilst also ensuring it stays true to its desire to serve the needs of local families and their children.

Additionally, the SAT results for Whitfield Primary show significant improvement, a testament to the hard work of teachers, parents and pupils alike. There is now an air of optimism around the school and I believe that Whitfield is firmly on the road to recovery. I am also fully supportive of plans to develop a pre-school class for local families as a precursor to the school’s reception class. This will help to boost numbers and retention, and further secure the long term future of the school. The school’s survival is a tribute to the efforts of a great many local people – too numerous to name – but they all know who they are. The school website is here:

The Adderlane conversion went ahead as planned on 1 December, into WISE Academies. There is no doubt that the team at the school, who I have met, have worked really hard to make this transition work. They have a good partner and are optimistic for the future. I have met the team at Adderlane earlier this year and they have worked really hard to turn the school around and I am delighted for their Headteacher, Emma, the parents and the pupils.
The courant reported their recent successful partnership here:

I met with the headteacher, the governors, supporters and some of the teachers approximately 7 weeks ago for a 2 and a half hour in depth discussion of the way ahead. I accept that the recent Ofsted findings have come as a bolt from the blue, but there was no doubting the determination of one and all to ensure the continued survival and enhancement of the school. The school has good numbers, a great location and a very positive commitment to the future in so many ways. The school website is here:

Ponteland Middle:
The school is definitely going to be open and fully functioning in 2017. I met Caroline, the headteacher, recently and all the pupils - the spirit in the school is excellent: full report here:

Haltwhistle First and Middle School:
I visited there for a morning about ten weeks ago - there is no doubt that the new teaching team are doing a fantastic job. The pupils were happy, focused and well led by the teaching team when I visited. I am going back there v shortly.