Monday 26th February 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

WHITBY SECONDARY EDUCATION

WHITBY SECONDARY EDUCATION

Today’s Guest Author is former Eskdale School Chair of Governors (and former Scarborough Borough Councillor) MIKE WARD, who writes to comment on recent announcements regarding the future of secondary education in Whitby – and the lamentable (and lamentably delayed) OfSTED Report for Caedmon College (reproduced at the foot of this article).

~~~~~

‘REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT’

What is new?

Surely no one can be surprised by the OfSTED report.

For 3+ years, at least, everyone involved – students, parents, teachers, governors, councillors, and NYCC Officers – have been aware that leadership required improvement.

If they weren’t, they should have been.

After listening to students and parents, everyone who attended the consultation meetings in 2023, must have come away disturbed.

If common sense had prevailed, especially when the Governors responded to the latest calls from Council Officers to amalgamate, surely the response could have been different.

Wouldn’t it have been better then to disband the joint Governing Body and revert to two focussed Governing bodies for Eskdale and Caedmon?

This would have allowed, first and foremost, the opportunity to put both schools in order before a more considered and phased move to amalgamation.

But when has common sense prevailed where money is involved?!!

Money talks, so we ended up where we are, with some very poor decision making.

It is now highly unlikely that anyone is going to admit any mistakes were even made.

The only hope is that the new Chair of Governors and Executive Leader can quickly get our secondary school education in order.

Both Mr Brian Crosby and Mr Jonathan Britton impressed many of those who attended the Whitby Community Network Meeting in November.

They knew then that improvements were required, and that 6th Form provision was difficult whilst continuing to ‘drain’ resources.

It was clear to all that a proper plan was needed.

BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS THAT PLAN AND IS IT NEW? 

Clarity is certainly needed on the vision for going forward, but is it being provided?

‘Whitby School’ – is that a ‘new’ name, or one which simply reminds us of a school we had and the ‘issues’ that existed then?

Is it really the best name that the creative thinking of the ‘experts’ can come up with?

We seem to be getting another split-site School again based on buildings rather than pupil need.

This ‘new’ plan has been proposed in the full knowledge that split site schools have failed across the UK, in North Yorkshire and in Whitby itself.

Caedmon experimented with 11-14 and 14-18 sites, with even fewer numbers than the new combined school, but it was a disaster and was quickly abandoned.

One of the key reasons that split-site schools fail is because of the required movement of pupils and/or staff between sites.

How will this be addressed?

Is the plan suggesting that Years 7 & 8 will be based at the current 6th Form site, along with those students?

What is the reasoning for that decision?

Isn’t it a very unusual mix of year groups?

Couldn’t a separate site just for 11–13-year-olds be easier to justify?

Wouldn’t it have been more logical to have all ‘examination ‘students’ (years 9-13) on one site?

What is still unclear is where Year 9 students will be based.

Can this plan really be termed NEW, when it looks more like a rehash, or is everything just a ‘moving feast’?

Does this bode well for September?

Is a new school on the Caedmon site by 2030 a realistic possibility or just more of a vain hope?

A new school has been asked for on a regular basis since the early 70’s, so again is nothing new.

It still means, that even if that objective is achieved, with everything going to plan, it is 6 years away. 

How much longer must our students suffer?

Where is the money coming from?

The revenue from the Eskdale site won’t go into the pot, though monies from the sale of the Mayfield Road site may, but more funding will be required – so where is that coming from, even in the medium term?

What will a new school look like?

Obviously, we know student numbers are declining.

There are many reasons – birth rate, job opportunities for those parents with children, an area of second homes, parental/student choice etc.

Some families have been forced to move away from the area given the educational issues.

Others have not even moved in, preferring to commute if a family member works in the area.

The number of students now accessing alternate educational provision even at 11 is alarming though maybe not surprising.

Given the current state of education this trend could increase if any new plan does not immediately give positive benefits and shows all those improvements that are urgently required.

Would a new 11-16 school on the Caedmon site with reduced numbers be achieved sooner and at a lower cost?

Could the St Hilda School building, if the nursery school was relocated, be brought into the equation?

What would be the minimum building requirements to accommodate all mainstream 11-16 students on the Caedmon site, leaving the Mayfield Road to cater for everything else until a more radical reconstruction took place?

The plan seems to suggest that 6th Form provision will continue but in what form?

Re-sits are more easily provided for, whereas choices for A Level and FE would, as now, be limited.

Many students know, the opportunities and resources provided out of town far exceed any that could be provided in Whitby.

Could an alternative provider of further education be found to open a small campus separate from any new school?

6th Forms across North Yorkshire are being reviewed and some will close.

If closed in Whitby, then any new 11-16 school would be smaller and less expensive to build.

Given that the plan is not completely new and there will almost certainly be a lack of funding going forward, we must put our trust in the new leadership of Mr Crosby and Mr Jonathan Britton to find quick and positive outcomes from a difficult starting point.

The current Governors, who have lost the trust of the community, should do the honourable thing and resign, allowing a new Governing Body to be put in place to take things forward with more transparency, openness, and honesty.

The new Chair and Executive Leader have certainly inherited a poison chalice from the previous Governors and Council Officers with the decision to amalgamate. This is to be achieved in such a short time frame and when so many serious issues already exist.

However, if they can do what they have said they can do quickly then maybe there is still some hope for our students, who have been and are being let down, as usual, at every turn.

Change is needed but there is much to be put into place before any new intake starts in September.

A clear vision and strategy are needed, which is understood by and communicated to everyone, especially parents and students.

STRONG LEADERSHIP IS REQUIRED NOW MORE THAN EVER.

Mike Ward

Whitby

23rd January 2024


OfSTED Report:

Download the PDF file CAEDMON_OfSTED.

Comments are closed.