The Future of Education in Whitby
A Letter to the Editor from MIKE WARD, former Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors, commenting on the appearance, at the Whitby Community Network monthly meeting held on Monday on 20th November 2023, of the new Chair of Governors, Mr Brian CROSBY, and Mr Jonathan BRITTON, CEO of the Wonder Learning Partnership, who will lead on strategy development for the new ‘amalgamated’ (but, as yet, unnamed school).
Let the debate commence . . .
Whitby Community Network Meeting at the Rugby Club 2oth November.
At last, a meeting with the Chair of Governors of WLP and the CEO of the Wonder Learning Partnership that was at least open, honest, and transparent – in as far as it went.
It was clear we cannot look back and now must move forward.
The only thing missing was an actual plan.
It was obvious to all that when the Governors and North Yorkshire Council first proposed the closure of Eskdale from 2023 that no one had a clue what was going to happen and maybe only a few do now!
No plan then and no plan agreed as of now, though one will be presented in January 2024.
No plan and no thought for the students, but rather simply a cost saving exercise giving the benefit to the Council of cashing in on a valuable building-site with certainly, no promise of investing any proceeds back into local education, or even in the area.
Once again, Whitby has been short changed.
Obviously, the Wonder Learning Partnership has only recently come on board, so Mr Jonathan Britton, Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. Brian Crosby, Chair of Governors (himself a recent addition to the Governing Body), have needed time to put together their plan for ‘quality’ education going forward.
The Governing Body will simply rubber stamp their proposal, so I hope the thoughts of teachers and needs of students have been well considered.
Maybe part of any plan would be for the ‘infamous’ four governors who proposed the closure of Eskdale, even if under duress from North Yorkshire Officers, with no plan and no thought for our students, and any other Governor who failed to attend key meetings, to do the decent thing, and resign.
Those Governors have lost the confidence of many students, teachers, parents, and residents.
A new plan, a fresh start, with new people to take it forward.
Eskdale has gone, so more than likely we will have a ‘new school’ based on the two remaining sites.
There will be no new purpose-built school and Whitby will have a system of education once again based on the remaining buildings rather than clear student need.
There was an understanding by everyone, including Mr Britton and Mr Crosby, of the issues that have faced Whitby for 50 years.
6th Form provision in Whitby is broken, with more and more students seeking greater opportunities elsewhere.
There must be free transport available to help with this.
There is no way a viable stand-alone 6th Form could be provided, so we must work with other providers – maybe from Scarborough – to provide some workable and appropriate courses in Whitby.
The plan being considered must first and foremost focus on educational provision up to 16, to ensure our students get ‘quality’ education and their results reflect the national average or above in examination passes, rather than falling further behind.
From questions raised, we won’t have two schools but rather one school on two sites.
Everyone knows, though not everyone is prepared to admit it, that split-site schools, with that split at 14, do not work.
They have failed across the country and in North Yorkshire – Graham/Raincliffe in Scarborough, in Northallerton and even previously at Caedmon College.
Great care is needed so not to create even more issues and further disruption.
Obviously, not all 11-16 students are going to be educated on one site, which was one proposal at the earlier consultation.
For numerous reasons, the Mayfield Road site, although it has 900+ places, would simply not work as one 11-16 school.
So, what can we expect to hear in January, as the options are limited?
Any plan should consider what size unit our primary pupils move to at 11.
A move to a large 900+ schools could be daunting, even threatening, and cause additional issues for some.
What options could be under consideration by WLP:
- Junior/Senior High School modelwith 11-14-year-old students on the Caedmon (current 6th Form) site and 14-18 students on the Mayfield Road site. This has been tried and failed before so, although easy to set up, it could be a recipe for disaster with further changes in the short term.
- Middle School– create a middle school, though part of one school, on the Caedmon site for two or possibly three-year groups: 10–13-year-olds, or 11–13-year-olds. This would leave the Mayfield site catering for 500/600 Obviously if transfer was at 10, then our Primaries would need to be reorganised. However, reorganisation is bound to happen there, because the Primaries themselves have excess places and closures will happen sooner than later. Either scenario could possibly work even if not ideal and would certainly be an improvement to transferring at 14.
- Middle Schools– a more radical solution, which would affect all schools in Whitby, would be to create two 9–13 Middle Schools on two of the current Primary sites, making the remaining primaries 5–9. This would need further investment and could take a little longer to implement a workable ‘quality’ solution. And this would mean Caedmon becoming a 13–16 High School that could also cater for examination re-sits, with the added financial benefit to the County of being able to sell off another redundant site on Mayfield Road. Any small satellite 6th form provision could be provided elsewhere.
- Campus-based education– the size of any school unit is important and there are schools in the UK which organise themselves on a ‘house’ (campus) basis. where pupils in the same school are based on one campus or unit. Why not have half our 11–16-year-olds educated at Caedmon and the other half at Mayfield Road? One school but two smaller, less threatening campuses? Yes, time tabling might give challenges but nothing that could not be overcome. They would both work to the same curriculum, with no pupil transfer between sites. The exception might be for physical education, to allow all pupils from the Mayfield site to access the better facilities at Caedmon. Any essential teacher-transfer could be arranged daily, rather than between lessons – though hopefully even this would be minimal.
Just four possible options, which hopefully the Wonder Learning Partnership will have considered, amongst others.
It is vital that any decision taken now will provide a long-term plan.
We cannot go through another reorganisation in the short or medium term.
What was and is needed is a radical review of 5-18 education rather than piecemeal solutions attempting to tackle issues as they occur, which has been the case for many years.
So, what is being considered and what will be the outcome?
Hopefully, a plan that should and must provide positive long-term outcomes for QUALITY EDUCATION.