Friday 12th July 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Eskdale School: Here We Go Again!

Eskdale School: Here We Go Again!

Guest Author MIKE WARD, former Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors (and a key figure in the successful 2016 campaign that forced North Yorkshire County Council’s Head of Children & Young People’s Services Pete DWYER to scrap plans to rob Whitby of Eskdale School) reacts to the latest assault on an already weakened and misguided education provision in Whitby.

(Please also review Headteacher Jamie HENSHAW’s notification letter [below] – followed by the reaction of Scarborough & Whitby MP, the Rt Hon Sir Robert GOODWILL (still shackled to the misapprehension that a Sixth Form provision in Whitby is imperative to best serve the community’s students).


Whitby Secondary Schools Amalgamation

The current proposal is, frankly, unbelievable.

The proposal, as it stands, could damage the prospects of all current and future Whitby students – not only those at Eskdale.

It affects everyone in the area.


Ever since the early, 2000’s North Yorkshire County Council have been intent on finding cost savings for Secondary education provision in Whitby.

Over many years they have made clear their intention of closing one of the three secondary sites in the town and sell off that land for housing.

Undoubtedly savings could be made and revenues received, but is the quality of the education on offer being considered?

Ever since the 70’s, Whitby has been denied the investment it needed, and education has been based on buildings rather than pupil need.

A purpose built 11-16 comprehensive school in Whitby has been needed from that time.

Instead of spending the money, NYCC fudged the issue with two 11-14 Junior High Schools and one 14-18 Senior High.

This type of education failed in other parts of the country, as it did in Whitby – not because we didn’t have two good 11-14 schools, but because the coming together of pupils from different schools at 14/15 only left the High School with 5 terms to pull everything together before life changing exams.

Whitby maintained this system for years when other authorities abandoned it.

Yes, some students flourished but too many more did not. Too often, we had a failing High School with a succession of Head Teachers.

As there were more school places on the three sites than there were students to fill them, amalgamation first raised its head in 2007.

Again, due to lack of funding, the question of a new school was dismissed.

Unfortunately, money always seems to come before the needs of the students.

After another ‘consultation’, Caedmon ‘confederated’ with the Community College, but Eskdale remained a separate 11-14 entity, later moving on to become an 11-16 school.

NYCC then achieved part of their plan with Caedmon and the Community College amalgamating but on split-sites – 11-14 and 14-18.

The history of split-sites across the country and in North Yorkshire is well documented.

Split-site schools too often went into special measures – such as Graham/Raincliffe and many more.

There was a concerted effort to move away from split-sites everywhere including, more recently, in Whitby, when Caedmon, as an 11-16 school, moved onto the Community College site and the 6th Form to the Caedmon site.

By avoiding a split-site between the ages of 11-16, education has improved.

Now, NYCC want to put the final nail in the ‘Eskdale’ coffin and close that site.

Obviously, finance has a key part to play but they also quote declining numbers as well as the extra student capacity on at least two of the three sites.

At present, Eskdale (11-16) has approx. 458 students and Caedmon (11-18) 786.

Our two 11-16 schools have a combined entry of around 180, so one school on one site would be needed to accommodate at least 900 students. There could be more if the current housing boom continues, as not all will be sold as second homes.

That would seem to be impossible to achieve, certainly by September 2023, without reverting to the failed split-site scenario.

Small 11-16 comprehensive schools do bring their own financial difficulties.

However, there is no evidence to suggest educational results would improve at a larger school at that level.

It is only in post-16 education where not only is there a financial impact on having a small 6th Form, but also on the choices offered which can adversely affect students.

Whitby 6th Form is the biggest drain on resources for the School Partnership.

If a single 11-16 comprehensive school is wanted or needed, then the proper level of investment must be found for a single-site school able to accommodate 900+ students, rather than another unworkable fudge, which could seriously damage education provision in the area, leaving more parents and students to reconsider their options.

Free transport to other schools capable of accepting them should then be offered.

3-into-2, even allowing for lower numbers, will not be achieved without teacher and/or pupil movements between the sites.

After reading the letter to parents [see below], it does appears the proposal for ‘consultation’ is to revert to the same split-site arrangement that was so recently abandoned after causing mayhem for many.

Without more details, this appears the only way the proposal as it stands could be achieved by September this year.

There must be another way.

This proposal has nothing to do with improving the education for our students but is an effort to get the books to balance.

Yes, they can fit all students on two sites, but at what cost to their education?

Could there be a better proposal to consider if, as we know, the key issue is around cost and unused places?

Should Eskdale remain as a separate 11-16 school for up to 500 pupils and then with either of the old Caedmon or Whitby Community sites being very slightly extended to cater for the remaining 750 11-18 students? One of those sites could be sold for redevelopmen.

Leaving the Normanby and Scoresby sites as our school means the inevitability of a split-site, in some form, which would be a recipe for disaster.

We could then have parental choice, which is a key concern for parents, and a partnership of two schools providing 11-16 education without the need for split-sites. Costs would be significantly reduced, and the issue of student places addressed.Decisions taken now could have dire consequences for many years to come.

Download the PDF file ESKDALE_AMALGAMATION_Letter_Jan_2023.

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