Having sat through various council meetings associated with the Putting the Learner First (PLF) and ploughed my way through the various versions and annexes associated with the County Plan, I am dismayed at what now appears to be unfolding.
Northumberland LEA has advertised a three-month public consultation period, starting on December 9. It appears the consultation document scheduled to go to all households will not arrive until the second week of January.
In reality we'll have about six weeks to comment before it goes back to a Labour-controlled council in April. I mention strategy because it now appears that NCC "are not consulting on the models in stage one. The purpose of this first consultation is to seek the views of as many people as possible on the PLF vision and strategy".
With regard to the countywide consultation, it now appears both opposition groups within the council have refused to endorse it on the basis it is not suitable ( and yet it is still going to be sent out and used as a basis to both inform and consult.
If this first part of the consultation is all about strategy rather than models, then where is the opportunity the councillors have mentioned so many times, that consultation could bring forward new ideas that could then be independently appraised financially (in accordance with the Scrutiny Committee recommendations that they adopted)?
I now assume this fits into a much later consultation stage.
Stage One Consultation is a whitewash because it will give councillors very little more to vote on in April. Unless there is a U-turn or vote of no confidence, the Labour majority will enable it to pass to Stage Two, where the same models will come out again because the opportunity to consult on them has not been covered in Stage One.
The results of Stage Two then pass for judgment by the executive, rather than a full council.
There are many concerned parents, teachers, governors and members of the electorate who want this whole process to be undertaken in an open, considered and fair way.
We do not have massive budgets to counter the money being spent by NCC. We are not a bunch of crackpots. We are ordinary people who believe children, a successful education system, rural employment and communities are at risk if a two-tier system is forced through along the lines highlighted above.
The educational case for wholesale change has not and, I believe, cannot be made.
The knock-on effect to other council services and jobs has yet to be detailed and openly publicised for all to see.
Finally, the financial implications for this county over the next 25 years (at least) would have even Gordon Brown choking on the word prudence!
Why is county council unable to provide the evidence?
I WRITE in response to Coun Jim Wright's comment that: "I have spoken to many of the schools campaigners and they will tell me, to a man, that it doesn't matter what the process or evidence is, they want the retention of the system we already have."
I am extremely surprised Coun Wright made this statement.
In correspondence he made a similar statement to me which caused me to specify my position and for Coun Wright to reply: "I note you suggest you have not yet made up your mind on the structural issue. Do you therefore see yourself as a critical friend of this authority with an open mind?"
I see myself as a critical friend of the authority and I do have an open mind.
Unfortunately, I have been asking for evidence since July 2004 and Northumberland County Council has consistently refused to provide this evidence.
The question is not whether parents will accept the evidence. The real question is why are Northumberland County Council unable to provide the evidence required?
Langley-on-Tyne, Hexham. …