Northumberland council assigns nearly £10m to scrap middle schools

Four schools are set to close after local councillors voted to replace a town’s three-tier system with two tiers – at a cost of £9.6 million.

Northumberland County Council’s cabinet councillors made the decision this week to “improve the quality of education” in Alnwick – despite opposition from parents.

It followed a request to consult on changes made by schools in the area. All are either community or church schools.

In total, 18 schools will be affected.

It comes after Schools Week reported in April that an academy in Redditch, in Worcestershire, was given permission by the area’s regional schools commissioner (RSC) Pank Patel to convert into two-tier.

It prompted concerns the town’s education system would be decimated and other schools have since applied to also convert.

But the Northumberland decision was not made by the area’s regional schools commissioner Janet Renou. Cabinet councillors voted for a statutory consultation on the changes at a meeting on Tuesday.

Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said the changes are supported by the vast majority of schools and will “ensure a sustainable school system across the town”.

He added: “The council has no plan to alter school structures across Northumberland, however if individual schools or groups of schools plan to change age ranges, then similar consultations may have to be considered to ensure there is no adverse impact on other schools which could affect the quality of education children receive.

“As national education policy continues to devolve more powers to individual schools and academies, it is vital that the authority plays a leading role in ensuring there is a coherent and high quality educational system across the county.”

Following approval of the recommendations in January next year, the council will pump £9.6 million to support affected schools, mostly for building alterations.

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