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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Pupils and teachers stressed by planned closure of Cumbrian school

Worried parents have told how their children are stressed and teachers’ morale has been hit by the proposed closure of two Workington schools.

Caroline Sutton photo
Caroline Sutton

At the second of two consultation meetings last night, they told how they were considering sending their children to different schools following the announcement of plans to merge Stainburn and Southfield and create an academy.

They spoke after the sudden departure of heads Chris McGrath and Lynda Dalkin, and the secondment of Brampton’s William Howard head Lorrayne Hughes as executive head.

The packed Stainburn meeting heard from 46-year-old Susan Jones, whose son Marcus, 12, is in Year 8.

“He is going to school and is noticing the stress amongst his teachers,” she said. “He doesn’t know what school he will be taught at in the future. He is getting stressed. It’s affecting his education.”

David Wise, of Camerton, whose daughter Scarlet, 12, is in Year Seven, said: “What in the short-term is going to be done to improve morale? My daughter comes home and says the teachers are all fed up. She says she feels like she is going to a failing school.”

After the meeting, Mr Wise added that a lot of parents were considering sending their children to a different school and that he was weighing up the options for his 10-year-old daughter Bethany, who will be moving up to secondary school in September next year.

Graeme Humes, 40, from Workington, has two children at the school and a third child who will soon by moving up to secondary school.

He said: “My concerns are about the timescale involved. My children could be in the middle of this process and the disruption to their education needs to be at a minimum.”

The meeting heard how the governing bodies of Stainburn and Southfield, which were both deemed to be failing by Ofsted following inspections late last year, will be replaced by one executive board.

The primary role of the board will be to try to get both schools out of special measures.

The board will work alongside Mrs Hughes and the two interim headteachers, whose names have yet to be announced.

Caroline Sutton, the county council’s assistant director for schools and learning, repeated the message from Tuesday night’s Southfield meeting that the closure was “not a forgone conclusion”.

Creating a single new academy, she said, would mean that more money could be spent on the pupils rather than on maintaining two buildings.

She added: “Trust is a really important thing. Meet Lorrayne and see what changes are made. You won’t see an instant change because life isn’t like that, but give it a chance.

“I know Workington has been let down by successive governments but I don’t want the county council to be added to that list.”

Cumbria County Council has tabled proposals to shut the schools at the end of December and launch a search to find another organisation, a sponsor, to run a new academy that will replace them from January 2015.

The council will eventually recommend a sponsor to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, who will make the final decision.

The consultation will run until March 3 and the county council’s cabinet is due to make its final decision on the schools on July 24.

The proposed academy would open across both sites until the new building is completed though it isn’t known when this would be.

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