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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Closure of two Cumbrian schools to go ahead

The closure of two failing secondary schools in Workington has been agreed by senior county councillors – with a plea to government not to delay the creation of the academy replacing them.

Cumbria County Council photo
Beth Furneaux

Stainburn and Southfield Schools will close on August 31, 2015 after original proposals to close at the end of 2014 were amended following a call from those currently governing the schools.

Cumbria County Council believes now is the best chance to transform secondary schooling in the town.

A single, large school will offer a wider curriculum to children while tackling falling pupil numbers and the subsequent fall in budgets fewer students leads too.

One single site academy will also be better to run financially than two deficit-hit schools.

The closures are subject to a funding agreement being signed by June next year between the government and the body it appoints to run the replacement academy.

But councillor Stewart Young, leader of the county council, fears the axing of Michael Gove as education secretary may delay the Whitehall decision needed to take forward the creation of a new school.

Mr Young, speaking at a meeting in Kendal (on Thursday), said: “The sooner they get that (a sponsor) the better. I hope it happens soon but I think the cabinet reshuffle may delay the outcome.”

He also called upon the Education Funding Agency, which is expected to give in the region of £20 million to build a new academy in Workington, to announce where it will build the replacement school.

“All these delays build in the uncertainty,” he said. “I hope they come forward with a decision on the site and ultimately a decision from the Secretary of State about a sponsor so we can all move forward.

Other members of the council’s cabinet were pleased to see the closure date pushed back.

Councillor Beth Furneaux (Lab, Yewdale) recounted the issues that arose from fast tracking the academy programme in Carlisle.

She said: “It was a quicker process and sadly for the children who went through that their progress suffered as a consequence."

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