WSP: Amalgamation Consultations
Guest Author MIKE WARD, former Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors, writes to share his observations following the Consultation events held at the Whitby Pavilion on Wednesday 8th March 2023.
Now the first Consultation meetings have taken place, it is time to reflect on the way forward.
The meeting was well chaired, and it was good to see Senior Officers from County Hall in attendance.
It was a shame our MP, Sir Robert Goodwill, could not be present to hear from so many of his constituents, and even some Conservative members, when his help is needed.
The voices from the floor were strong and extremely thought-provoking.
Some issues, mainly at Caedmon, but also – to a far lesser extent – at Eskdale, gave cause for concern.
It is to be hoped many of the issues mentioned do not occur in other schools across North Yorkshire.
Whitby, since comprehensive education was introduced, has had fifty years of education based on buildings rather than pupil need.
If this proposal is taken forward, that will continue.
The present proposal focuses on excess places and cost, but what about the students, and the fact that it doesn’t even fully address those issues?
Closing Eskdale would still leave 400+ unused spaces.
Moving 900+ pupils to the Mayfield Road site does not make educational, or even common, sense.
From the comments heard on Wednesday, Caedmon is certainly failing to address the needs of current students, therefore how will it cope with an additional 400+?
It is the oldest of the three sites, with little outside space, and already experiencing traffic issues.
A larger school will mean no parental choice and teachers will find increased difficulty in knowing all the students and their specific needs.
No-one was willing to guarantee that discipline and safeguarding issues couldn’t, and wouldn’t, increase.
Some of the comments from students enlightened everyone to the problems currently being experienced and if the management teams can’t get things sorted now, what hope is there going forward?
The danger in the current proposal is that amalgamating two schools can have such disastrous results.
Looking back at the Graham & Raincliffe amalgamation shows what could happen.
A long-term plan is needed now.
There are alternative options to the one being proposed which surely must be evaluated, costed, and considered.
We have needed this plan to obtain the best possible educational provision for several years.
Hopefully NYCC Officers and Councillors will have a clearer understanding after considering all the comments – especially those given by our students.
NYCC must commit to having a comprehensive strategic review of secondary provision in the area.
Why has Whitby never had a new-build for 50 years?
Why haven’t alternative options been considered, costed, and discussed?
There must be investment to meet the needs of our students.
If the Eskdale was to continue, it would need upgrading with maybe £1m of improvements.
The Scoresby site is the largest and has scope for development to increase capacity in the long-term.
The Mayfield Road site could facility a Scarborough 6th Form satellite campus, a Marine College and other FE courses.
Obviously, excess places and cost must be addressed, so shouldn’t closing the Mayfield Road site be considered?
There would be no excess places but rather two schools still working in partnership.
Excess land on the Scoresby site would be there for future development, if needed.
Eskdale with improvements could be viable as a 500 11-16 school and have a PAN of 100.
Caedmon would remain as 11-18 schools with a PAN of 90 and a limited option 6th Form for up to 150 students.
These PANs would ensure cost-effectiveness and best use of space.
Yes, 6th Form options would have to be restricted, but it could work and maintain adequate provision in the area.
If there was a need for more going forward, this could be achieved by some additional building work or even by using the premises of a redundant primary school if one became available because of reducing numbers at that level.
Large schools can create major issues and this must not happen in Whitby.
Is creating a Secondary school of almost 1,200 students (one of the largest in North Yorkshire) really the best option for Whitby?
There are already several small 11-16 and 11-18 schools providing good education across the County.
We need quality teachers, leaders, and governors to achieve the very best in educational provision.
Simply creating a large school will not necessarily provide it.