“To Trust Or . . .”
Today’s Guest Author is a regular here on the Enquirer – MIKE WARD – former Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors. Mike retains a profound commitment to the school.
Suspension of Eskdale School Closure
To Trust or Not to Trust, that is NOW the Question.
Cllr Arthur Barker has stated ”This strategic pause must now be used well to enable key leaders of the local schools, academy sponsors, the Regional Schools Commissioner and the local authority to explore all options which address the real risks to quality secondary provision in the town.”
This is a decision that, on face value, has to be applauded – but the debate and actions which follow will put the County, it’s Officers and Councillors, under scrutiny for their openness, honesty and transparency.
Do they say what they mean and mean what they say ?
Will ALL options really be considered ?
The fight to provide 11-16 Education at Eskdale School is by no means over.
This has been acknowledged by the Eskdale Campaign Committee.
In fact, no sooner than the NYCC press statement was released, rumours were coming out from County Hall suggesting that Officers still wanted to push through their preferred option of a split-site 11-19 School in Whitby, but were simply looking for other ways to achieve that objective.
The latest rumour on the streets is that the new ‘Whitby School’ will open in January 2017, regardless of anything that has happened and certainly without regard to exploring all options.
What most people will agree on is that there is no money for any new build, so we will have to continue with all or two of the current sites and that an 11-14 Junior High School is not the right way forward.
Here, however, is where the agreement stops.
In any debate, the first question you ask will always influence any which follow.
First and foremost the residents of Whitby must be asked :-
- ”Do you want full sixth form educational provision in Whitby maintained at any cost ?”
Although the question has never been asked, Cllr. Barker, Cllr Chance, Pete Dwyer and others seem to have assumed the answer is YES.
Cllr Barker has referred to:-
- ”….The challenges of how to ensure there is good choice for young people in the subjects they are able to take at both GCSE and A level”.
How has he reached this conclusion when maybe half of our students already access some part, if not all, of their post-16 education outside Whitby ?
If the answer to this key question is YES, then, realistically, the only way forward is one split-site school with approximately 1,600 students.
Even then, any local 6th Form will continue to struggle to offer all the required options and increasing numbers will access their ongoing education elsewhere. Education has changed with the raising of the school-leaving age and the need to provide worthwhile vocational training.
As with hospital provision, it is a fact that for education at this level better facilities, breadth of course options, etc, etc, already lie outside of the town.
Many 6th Forms in the country are struggling and are having to go into partnerships with others nearby – an option which is not open to Whitby.
With free transport, the extra money from having Whitby students would assist in providing even better ongoing 6th Form provision in Scarborough, Guisborough, etc, etc.
If, however, the answer is NO then we can move on to the next key question.
- ‘How do you want 11-16 education to be provided in our area?’
Opinions may vary, but if we are solely focussing on 11-16 years olds, there appear to be only two options, given financial restraints and current buildings.
- A) one 11-16 split-site school
- B) two 11-16 schools based on two of the current sites.
Following the outcome of that discussion, the debate could be widened as to whether any limited 6th Form provision might be provided in Whitby to cover re-sits, foundation courses, etc and who would be responsible for that.
If there were to be two schools, then educationalists would need to discuss how they could work together in key areas of the curriculum.
Ideally, we need an independent review of Secondary Education in the area.
At the very least, there has to be an open, honest and transparent debate covering all the issues and outcomes in the best interests of all our students.