North Yorkshire County Council has issued the following announcement. Sadly, it is not entirely transparent:
County Council suspends decision on Whitby’s schools
North Yorkshire County Council has decided to suspend further decision-taking on the proposal to amalgamate Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School, Whitby.
This follows the recent publication of the Government White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, which has set out the expectation that all schools will become academies by 2022 and that the policy will certainly be advanced on that route by 2020.
The County Council’s decision follows discussion with Cllr Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools. He said: “A lot has happened in recent weeks and it is only right to pause to take stock of these significant developments.”
Newly published guidance from the Department for Education states clearly that decision makers must have regard to the academy requirement and indeed play an enabling role in the growth of multi-academy trusts. The local authority must, as a result, ensure that these requirements are both met but also positively explored for their potential to address current concerns.
“What we are now proposing is a pause for further consideration of how the Government’s stated ambitions might come about in Whitby whilst also addressing the very serious concerns that we have expressed as a local authority,” said Cllr Barker. “We remain of the view that the local authority was absolutely right to have initiated this debate, indeed they would have been negligent not to have done so.
“The consultation process has generated considerable interest and strong contributions but the challenges and our concerns about the entire secondary system in Whitby have not gone away. 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 to improve quality; how to ensure that the system is financially viable and how to make the best use of the sites available – they are all still there.
“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 decision also means that Friday’s special meeting of the Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which had been called to consider the County Council’s amalgamation proposal for Whitby’s secondary schools, will also be postponed.
Cllr Janet Jefferson, Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, has thanked the Executive Member for explaining the reasons for pausing the decision-making process. Cllr Jefferson said: “I am pleased that so many people have engaged with the consultation process and were willing to come to our meeting on Friday. I believe the scrutiny committee has a vital contribution to make in helping the Executive come to an informed decision about how best to achieve quality secondary education provision in Whitby.
“Now that the Executive has stated its intention to explore all other options before reaching a decision, in line with the Government’s newly published guidance about academies, it seems sensible to postpone Friday’s committee meeting in Whitby, but I do look forward to reconvening the committee on an appropriate future date when much more information will be available.”