Eskdale School – Past, Present & Future
Ahead of scheduled meetings intended to address the Eskdale School crisis, Guest Author MIKE WARD offers readers the benefit of his knowledge gleaned from nine years experience serving the people of Whitby on the Eskdale School Board of Governors – five years in the Chair.
Mike also served as a Scarborough Borough Councillor for six years, as an Independent member.
Over to Mike . . .
The current proposal to create one single-split site school is not about pupil need but financial expediency, pure and simple.
Educational provision in Whitby has been starved of proper thought and investment for years.
Everyone agrees that change is necessary and an open and independent review is now required.
NYCC should not simply impose their will on a community in an attempt to save money.
The outcome of the proposed ‘consultation’ is unfortunately a foregone conclusion. It was reported in another meeting I attended that one Eskdale Governor had already put their name down to sit on the new shadow Board!
Back in the seventies, when Comprehensive education came to Whitby, no proper thought was given to educational provision, but rather how best the buildings could be used to fudge the issue.
Whitby ended up with two 11-14 Junior High Schools and one 14-19 High School, which no one has ever thought ideal.
The same is happening once again.
Caedmon College Whitby (Whitby Community College absorbed/amalgamated with Caedmon School) is a split-site 11-19 School. It now wants to take in all Eskdale pupils – so the sale of the latter site will pay off it’s deficit budget and the capital payment gained from the extra pupils would help to subsidise the 6th Form.
We will potentially end up with an 11-19 split-site school of some 1,600 pupils which could rise still further in the future. Once again, no proper thought or investment.
6th Form provision is an even greater problem following the raising of the school leaving age. Many in the area are opposed to travelling 20-plus miles to get the right education, but unfortunately for the sake their future they may have no choice. Pupils already started in the 6th Form at Caedmon College have subsequently left in considerable numbers.
If a student wants a non-academic career, then undoubtedly the education on offer at Middlesbrough, Redcar and Yorkshire Coast Colleges is far superior.
Even when it comes to an Academic future, there are a far wider range of options in Guisborough and Scarborough.
At Whitby, if you want to do languages you can only study French, not German – and so the list goes on.
Maybe it is time to consider a federation of 6th form provision between Scarborough and Whitby.
The Whitby Campus could offer certain subjects, depending on numbers, in any option – with travel to and from Scarborough by teachers and/or students as required. A similar arrangement could be agreed with the Yorkshire Coast College in Scarborough.
Another issue to be faced is that for many there are problems when moving from a school of less than 100 to a secondary school in excess of 1,000 rising to 1,600 at 11-years-old. They can feel lost and immediately put under pressure at a very young age.
It is far easier to settle into a school of 400-600, where every teacher knows every child as an individual.
This has been the strength of Eskdale School, and, in a slightly different way, the old Caedmon School, for years.
Unfortunately, finance dictates that a secondary school of 400 will struggle to survive, but with 550/600 pupils it is viable. A school of 550 can still create a family ethos.
In Whitby, we could quite easily have two 11-16 Comprehensive Schools based on Eskdale and the old Caedmon School sites. Neither site would require huge investment.
Eskdale had produced a sound business plan to move to be an 11-16 school from September 2016, which the County has obviously rejected.
The Community College site would be too large for a satellite 6th form Campus but this could be sold off to provide for a purpose built block on the top of Caedmon fields and any deficits still paid back.
Why won’t NYCC consider any other option but their own – or even hold an independent review?
Following the submission of the above article, Sue VERRILL, Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors, has issued this Statement (below) to parents and carers of the School’s students, appended here in the interests of fairness and balance:
Whilst the governors appreciate that you may have many questions about how the proposed amalgamation of the two schools will be taken forward by NYCC, I am sure you will also appreciate that the governors have come to a position on the way forward that we believe to be in the best interests of pupils, the community and staff, but as a body we are not responsible for taking the amalgamation forward.
The only response we can make to questions 1, 2 and 4 in your letter is that NYCC will address these when they discuss their report with the Executive Member for schools on 9 February and, if he agrees to consult, the consultation documents will set out in greater detail the proposal and the rationale for it.
I can confirm that the governors made their decision to support the proposed amalgamation and discontinuation of Eskdale in a meeting on 13 January. They did so after considering an options appraisal document that had been prepared by NYCC (this will underpin the consultation documents or you could request a copy from the Director of Children’s Services) and in the knowledge that after two successive OfSTED judgements that the school requires improvement, a continued and protracted confrontation with NYCC and the likelihood that they would use their powers of intervention to force a decision would not be good for the school or the community.
We believe that the conditional response we made to NYCC on 6 January has helped to shape a far more positive way forward for education in Whitby.