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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Merger idea for Stainburn and Southfield schools in Workington

Two west Cumbrian schools – Stainburn and Southfield Technology College – could merge to form a flagship academy.

The plan is part of a huge investment in west Cumbrian secondary schools.

Cumbria County Council is bidding for up to £180m under the Government’s building schools for the future programme. Most of that cash is earmarked for west Cumbria.

Options drawn up by children’s services chief Moira Swann would see:

  • Stainburn School and Southfield Technology College in Workington merged to form a single school, possibly an academy, in new buildings;
  • A complete rebuild of Netherhall School in Maryport and Solway Community School in Silloth;
  • Solway and Beacon Hill, Aspatria, to operate as a federated school on two sites, possibly to include Netherhall too;
  • Remodelling and refurbishment of Whitehaven School.

Her report says: “Schools in the west of Cumbria have not benefited from large amounts of capital investment over recent years.

“The consequence of this lack of investment means that most of the school estate is in need of attention.

“In particular, many of the school buildings are out of date and not conducive to current curriculum delivery or practices in teaching and learning.”

She also points to the poor results of some west Cumbrian schools as a reason why investment in buildings is needed.

Beacon Hill, Solway Community School, Southfield Technology College and Whitehaven School all figure on a list of 10 Cumbrian secondary schools where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieve grades of ‘C’ or higher in GCSE exams.

Ms Swann’s report says: “It is clear that improvements in the school environments would impact very positively on student performance.”

The report outlines difficulties facing each school. In Workington, for example, there is said to be a “pressing need” for investment in the two community schools.

The report says: “There is a clear need for Stainburn and Southfield Technology College to become one new school and the possibility of an academy solution is one that may be considered a favourable option.”

Academies are a government initiative to raise standards in deprived areas.

They attract up to £30m funding including £2m from private sponsors.

West Cumbria’s first academy, in Egremont, opened in September to replace Wyndham and Ehenside schools. There are two more in Carlisle.

The report predicts that the number of pupils at Netherhall School will fall from 893 to 671 by 2018 and recommends that it is rebuilt with a maximum capacity of 750.

It says: “The condition of the building is very poor indeed and the highest priority in the area for a single school complete rebuild.

“The school suffers from significant deprivation in the local community with high levels of unemployment and low-paid employment. Low aspirations locally have led to a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Beacon Hill School is projected to have only 225 pupils by 2018, which, the report argues, would make it “unsustainable as a stand-alone school”. But there is no suggestion that it would close leaving Aspatria without a secondary school.

Instead, Beacon Hill would function as a federated school with Solway Community School, which would be rebuilt, perhaps incorporating primary school classrooms.

Ms Swann’s report will be discussed by a county council scrutiny committee tomorrow. The cabinet will then approve an “expression of interest” to go to the Department for Children, Schools and Families by the end of November.

The report adds: “The next steps are to continue discussions and consultations.”

None of the headteachers at the affected schools was aware of the report until the News & Star told them about it. Embarrassed council officials admit that it should not have been published until the schools were briefed.

A council statement said: “We would like to apologise to those schools, their staff, pupils and parents, for any anxiety this error may have caused.”

But David Sibbit, headteacher at Netherhall, still welcomed the proposals to rebuild his school. “Our building is quite a difficult building to manage,” he said. “Facilities are getting past their sell-by date and need to be refreshed.”

Have your say

Its long overdue but I despair at private company involvement if our children are worth educating then that's what our tax's are for,education should not be done on the cheap or be compromised by outside interests.
It would appear to make more sense to include St Joseph's school in the plans as well and have one mega whooper superdooper academy....

Posted by John on 14 October 2008 at 12:15

Let us be under no illusions. Academies are 'privatized schools'. If we go down this route we hand over complete control over the education of our children to unelected and unrepresentative bodies for generations to come. It is a diminution of local democracy. Something needs to be done with education within West Cumbria and the country as a whole. Private companies may have a role to play in helping improve the quality and breadth of the education of our children but should not be in charge of schools. The priority of schools should be the welfare of children. The priority of private companies will always be the private company itself.

Posted by Moley on 13 October 2008 at 21:22

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