Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Study 'Against the Schools Shake-Up'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Study 'Against the Schools Shake-Up'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Robert Brooks

Campaigners fighting Northumberland County Council's proposals to axe middle schools say they are backed by a top-level academic study - commissioned by the council itself.

Dr John Williams of Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned by Northumberland County Council to carry out a review of learning provision in the authority three years ago.

But his 2001 conclusion - that the county's traditional three-tier structure of schools should remain intact - now sits directly at odds with the council, which is currently considering a wholesale clear-out of the second tier.

Options put forward by education chiefs at County Hall favour a more streamlined system, which would mean transfers for children from primary to secondary school at the age of 11.

Although the council blames the three-tier system for surplus places, deteriorating buildings and spiralling expenditure, Dr Williams' findings stated that switching to a new system of primary and secondary schools would not lead to any improvements in pupils' achievements.

Ted Tallantyre, chairman of governors at Meadowdale Middle School in Bedlington, says the situation hasn't changed since Dr Williams' verdict three years ago.

"The council must take account of this study, which they commissioned," he said. "A change like this could cause massive disruption for children and staff.

"A school is not just a building, it's a community, and that could be lost if children and staff are forced to become part of a giant concrete jungle.

"In my opinion the three-tier system in Northumberland works far better for children than two tiers. The staff know the children and the families, and if that is lost it will be a great shame."

Mum-of-three Heather Burnard, whose oldest son Jordan, 11, is a pupil at Meadowdale, said she hoped her other children would be able to attend Meadowdale in future.

"In secondary schools the size of those being proposed, with thousands of pupils, the children become almost anonymous," said Mrs Burnard, of Hirst Head. …

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