CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Chronicle Live
A report to Northumberland County Council highlights a host of issues after Haydon Bridge High School was left without a sponsor, The Chronicle Live reports.
A major shake-up has been suggested to help schools facing “precarious financial positions”, left without sponsors and struggling to fund much-needed refurbishments.
Northumberland County Council has started consulting on plans for a ‘new model’ for the west of the county, which are currently beset with a host of problems, including an estimated £17.85m bill for building maintenance.
And one possible solution could see the council form its own academy trust to run schools previously taken out of local authority control.
Academies are state schools run outside council control, sponsored and supported by a charitable trust.
Under government rules, any maintained schools judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted must become academies in the hope it will help raise standards.
But as a high-profile sponsor pulls out of a number of local schools, Northumberland County Council is considering setting up its own trust to oversee education in the west of the county.
The future of troubled Haydon Bridge High School, rated inadequate in 2014, was thrown further into doubt in November when proposed academy sponsors the Bright Tribe Trust pulled out of supporting it, citing “significant financial risk”.
Now, with the school under the control of a Government-appointed Interim Executive Board, the council says it is unable to help it tackle its £1m budget deficit.
The Department for Education has been as yet unable to find another trust to take responsibility for the struggling school.
Bright Tribe has also announced its intention to pull out of Haltwhistle Upper and Lower Academies, which had been supported by the trust for less than a year.
Meanwhile, according to a report seen by councillors, schools in the area have thousands more school places than are needed.
There are 6,942 places available in schools in the Hexham and Haydon Bridge areas, but just 4,896 pupils on the rolls.
Smaller schools in the area are facing serious budget problems over coming years, while larger schools, like Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School, are in serious need of refurbishment.
While detailed plans have not yet been released, the council says it will use the consultation to work on a new ‘model’ for schools in the area, which is likely to see them working more closely together.
It’s unclear whether this could mean school closures, although the consultation sets forward a number of options which would maintain some kind of education on the Haydon Bridge site.
The report said: “The council has a duty to support schools to improve standards, support continuity of education and ensure sufficiency of school places within Northumberland and smooth transition between schools.
“This can only be achieved if schools and academies work together in partnership.”
The consultation began last week and gives schools, parents and those who live in the area until January 26 to share their thoughts.
It’s proposed that a more detailed plan will be released, setting out proposals for a new structure for schools in the west of Northumberland.