Wednesday 17th July 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Save Education in Whitby

Save Education in Whitby

The Enquirer is grateful for the opportunity to bring to a wider readship the following Open Letter from Save Education in Whitby (formerly known as Keep Choice in Whitby and Save Eskdale).

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An Open Letter regarding the amalgamation of Eskdale School and Caedmon College

We are Save Education in Whitby, formerly Keep Choice in Whitby & Save Eskdale. We have rebranded to better reflect the current situation of education choices for our children.

Since 4th January 2023, parents of school aged children in Whitby and surrounding villages have watched and listened as secondary education choices were ripped away from their children with no robust consultation. As parents, we put our trust in school leaders, the board of governors, Whitby Secondary Partnership (WSP) and the newly appointed Wolds Learning Partnership (WLP) to assist WSP at great expense. We have attended meetings, written emails, made phone calls and exhausted every avenue to stop this amalgamation.

A letter (see below) sent to parents on 17th October 2023 from WLP Executive Leader, Mr J Britton, has sadly confirmed what we have all known for months; WSP and WLP have no clear plan for the amalgamated school. There is no mission, no name, no values, no policies, no uniform. No clear plans for the pupils, especially those pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and those pupils with Educational Health Care Plans (EHCP’s) in place, no clear plans for pupils emotional wellbeing, no thought on the impacts on pupils, their families or staff and no thought given to those children who have transferred from one school to the other due to bullying, especially those pupils with protected characteristics.

The failures left behind by WSP members who have since left have now been inherited by the newer WLP and it is this new partnership that have admitted the lack of clear planning. Perhaps the original members of WSP should follow suit and leave what is fast becoming a sinking ship? We, as parents, have been asked to support WSP and WLP yet how can we offer our support when there is literally nothing to support? Plans for the amalgamated school are ‘not as advanced’ as they’d hoped, and yet the original plan to amalgamate the two schools was planned for September 2023. How can we trust these people when they wanted to have the amalgamation done so swiftly? What is with the urgency to amalgamate the schools? Yet another capacity review? Why? Was this capacity review not done before the consultation period to ensure that the Caedmon site could safely accommodate the extra 400+ pupils? More time is needed to allow for proper planning so that any amalgamation that takes place is beneficial for pupils, staff and the wider Whitby community.

We have been told that pupils aged 11 – 18 will be offered a wider range of subjects and yet we haven’t seen any documents to confirm what the wider range of subjects there will be. Will there be vocational subjects? A chance to study at higher levels? Greater depths of learning and teaching? If amalgamating the school is going to be so good for our children, then why aren’t the benefits being sung from the rooftops? Also, we certainly don’t question the passion of the staff at either Caedmon or Eskdale as they continue to work under extremely difficult circumstances.

WLP say they are working hard to develop, consult upon and then share a clear plan? This work should’ve been done before the consultation process, along with a robust Equality Impact Assessment. If these steps had been taken then any concerns, possible disproportionate disadvantages to pupils and potential safety issues would’ve been recognised and a clear plan could’ve been made that ensured all major issues would have little or no impact. Concerns like additional traffic, a lack of pedestrian crossings and bus transportation which are now being reviewed after a recent Safeguarding and Health and Safety Review. There will also be a review of the school sites to determine the capacity of the buildings and the facilities available. During the limited public consultation process, we heard from a large number of pupils at Caedmon that space is tight, classrooms are full and there were major concerns about how safe it would be with an additional 400+ pupils. Are we about to discover that Caedmon College can’t actually safely add an additional 400+ pupils?

There are so many questions. So many concerns our own children have had and yet these questions have gone largely unanswered.

  • What is being done about the obvious drug issues that are rising at Caedmon right now?
  • What is being done to tackle the rising bullying, especially bullying of those pupils with protected characteristics, and the potential harm the amalgamation will have on children who have had managed moves due to this bullying?
  • Will the kitchen be able to cater for 400+ additional pupils when we heard at both consultation meetings how difficult it is to actually get food?
  • What will be done to mitigate large class sizes to ensure all pupils have access to their teacher and learning materials?
  • Why, when apparently we have enough staff to cover this amalgamation, are some children being taught some subjects by staff members who are not qualified teachers?
  • What is being done to ensure a robust Pastoral Plan is in place to ensure pupils who need help get it in a timely manner and to ensure staff aren’t under pressure to deliver helpful, timely Pastoral Care?
  • Why are pupils already suffering a lack of subjects due to a lack of qualified staffing?
  • Why has the open evening for Year 6’s been organised so late in the first term, leaving parents with just a few days to make a huge decision about their childs’ secondary education?
  • Earlier this year, North Yorkshire Council forecast a 13% increase in EHCP for the year 2023/2024. As that 13% will include pupils in Whitby Secondary Partnership, what is being done to ensure a smooth transition for existing and new applications?

Mr Britton ends his letter by saying that this is a journey himself and his executive colleagues have undertaken numerous times and that every decision must be carefully considered. From the obvious lack of even basic sensible leadership and clear planning to the unreasonable school routes some children are going to be forced to undertake in dark, poorly lit areas. From the limited time scale and baffling urgency to complete this amalgamation to the fact that senior WSP members have recently left, we ask that the plan to amalgamate is postponed.

The very people who pushed and pushed for this amalgamation have now vanished. WSP and WLP can’t fulfil the vision that the consultation process was built on. Therefore, amalgamation should be postponed for now and, at the very least, planned for further in the future to allow for proper, carefully considered options.

Signed,

Save Education in Whitby


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