To the Headteachers and Governors of Whitby Secondary Partnership
Mr Jamie Henshaw (executive head), Ms Susan Boyd (Caedmon College head), Mr Phil Nicholson (Eskdale head), Co chairs of the board of governors Christina Zanelli and Su Crossland, Mark Taylor, Jane Mortimer, Andrew Mitchell and David Rae.
At 4pm on January 4th 2023, the first day back following the Christmas break, without prior notice or consultation, the staff were called to hear your decision to close Eskdale School. Stating that the way forward as you saw it, was to amalgamate with Caedmon College. Taking a whole 47 minutes to explain your controversial decision, the meeting finished at 4.47pm where emails were promptly sent out to parents and guardians of students forcing them to break the news and explain that the governors of their school wished to close it.
On the outside, this looks like a similar fight to last time – to save one of the town’s beloved secondary schools, but underneath it is very different and with many more disturbing issues than previously.
We ask if this decision is at the end of a well thought out period of research and planning, if so why isn’t this plan on the table in front of everyone in Whitby and District to view?
Why is it that when asked where this plan is, the only response we recieve is that all the details will be part of the six- week consultation period?
We are not against change, but expect it to be done with time, planning & discusion. We do not want a rushed through quick fix that is set to failure, repeating last mistakes and deal untold damage to hundreds of children. Our children have already lived through unprecedented times and lost so much of their education.
WHY THE RUSH?
The timescale might look good on paper but how is it going to work in the real world?
The final decision will be made on June 20th 2023. How are you going to transition all the children in a month including many with Special Educational Needs (SEN) before they break up for summer?
We guess the reply we might receive from you is that it will be in the consultation document but surely a well considered plan would have been presented at this proposal to limit the upset and disruption caused to all the children.
The poor Year 6’s of our local primary schools. No matter what school they have chosen, if this goes ahead, they won’t be getting the one they picked. A 1,000 plus secondary school was not one of the options presented to them at the time. The children will also get the added bonus of having to wait an extra three anxious months for a decision as to whether they will have a place. The move from primary to secondary is a massive jump normally without the unknown playing on their minds.
What about the pupils already in both schools – Caedmon and Eskdale? They are at the schools for a reason and they have chosen them. Seven years ago it was decided by North Yorkshire County Council that the town needed that choice. Lowering pupil numbers has been blamed, but Eskdale has only recently experienced lower pupil numbers due to issues with higher management and less advertising of the school. Caedmon College together with its 6th Form has been running at just over 50% capacity since at least 2018/19 with the 6th Form students averaging 165 pupils enrolled in total per year. If Eskdale is amalgamated into Caedmon College, there will still be a 300 shortfall in pupils compared to capacity. What happens when your quick fix fails? Do the children get forced on to one site? Do we amalgamate some primary schools? Anything to keep the dream alive?
Have the decision makers among you considered the irreversible effect a quick ill-thought out move will also have on children with SEN? Some of these children have Educational Health Care Plans (EHCPs) which are designed especially for the educational settings they are in. Your plans are already causing significant distress to these children.
Since 2021 between the two secondary schools they have had an astonishing total of eight headteachers. These being made up of actual heads, acting heads, associate head, interim head and our current executive head. How is this constructive for a settled educational environment? How are staff meant to have good working conditions when they don’t know who is going to be in charge every few months? There is clearly a problem further up the management ladder.
It was mentioned by a local county councillor on social media that the new school would have a new name and a new ethos. However, in real terms this would mean parents of children in the Whitby area footing the bill for its new identity. This includes paying for the cost of a full new uniform and PE kit before the start of the new school year in September 2023 – just two months after a decision.
We want there to be a transparent and in-depth look into Whitby Secondary Education. We do not want any more short term fixes and name changes (of which there have been many) and no more short-sightedness.
However, this all takes time and kids are worth your time to get this right. More than one option needs to be explored in depth with the whole community allowed to see the plans for themselves.
We have written this letter to you now before the decision is made whether your plan to shut Eskdale will be consulted on because we feel the children, staff and wider community deserve answers.
Our children deserve a well thought out, well led and well funded secondary education provision which can be achieved if you work together in partnership with the community.
If you do not get this right now you are failing our children and future generations.
From the members of the Keep Choice in Whitby and Save Eskdale School Campaign Group
We invited the Whitby Secondary Partnership to provide a response to this letter. Here is their response
At the end of the Autumn term following consideration as a Governing Board we decided to ask the Local Authority to commence a consultation process on our proposal to amend the structure of the Whitby Secondary Partnership. Our proposal to NYCC is that Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School amalgamate from 1 September 2023. Amalgamation is a proposal to technically close one school (or more) and enlarge an existing school, to accommodate all pupils. The remaining school would retain its original registration number and age range. Our proposal would result in the technical closure of Eskdale School and the Eskdale site. The newly amalgamated school is proposed to operate from the Normanby and Scoresby sites from 1st September 2023. There is an opportunity to rename Caedmon College Whitby as part of this reorganisation process and as part of the proposal this is something governors propose to do ahead of the amalgamated school proposed opening on 1st September 2023. This consultation will involve both schools and that staff from both schools will be part of an enlarged staffing structure to fit the needs of the newly amalgamated school and to meet the needs of delivering a curriculum fit for the future.
The reasons for this proposal are three linked factors: low pupil numbers, significant financial challenges at both schools and an imperative to give the best education and curriculum to the young people of Whitby. Currently both schools are subject to a financial warning notice from the local authority and this limits any spending that can happen, a considerable amount of the schools budgets is spent on maintaining the sites when it could be spent on curriculum and teaching and learning resources to benefit the students education.
Before the consultation process begins approval has to be given by Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, the Executive Member for Education and Skills at NYCC and this decision is scheduled to be taken on Tuesday 7th February. If consultation is approved there will be an initial 6 week public consultation period during which all stakeholders will have opportunity to comment on the proposal and a public meeting will be held. Further details
We want to express that this in no way has been an easy decision for the governors to make, and we do acknowledge that this can be a very emotive topic, however in order to ensure that we can deliver a fit for purpose education to the young people within the community for the generations to come we feel it is the right decision. It will be our priority to ensure that we support all staff and students through any change and will be sensitive with how and when information is presented. A newly amalgamated school will provide the opportunity to develop a broader curriculum, with far more choice over subjects to study and access to a wider range of experiences both in and out of the classroom that currently aren’t available to us.
We firmly believe that the future of the secondary provision needs to be able to adapt to the world around us and the climate that we find ourselves in given the financial constraints and instability that needs to be resolved in order for us to deliver on the quality first education Whitby children deserve.
As is stated in the parent/carer letter we need to ensure that the current education we provide to our students remains at its highest, students will still be able to complete courses they have begun and work towards those final assessments in those subjects in both 2023 and 2024 and that we are focused on the current job in hand for the good of our students and the community.
We want to be clear that if the consultation is given the go ahead on the 7th February then much more information will be shared with the community especially through the consultation document, this will share views and a vision for the proposed amalgamation and we will be interested in views but at the moment we need to follow a process and timeline related to the local authority.
Christina Zanelli/Su Crossland
Co-Chairs of Governors
There we have it. No mention of alternative options. No addressing of the points raised. Just a repetition of the content sent to parents (actually a bad cut-and-paste if you notice the “further details” half way down), and “wait til the consultation”. Hardly a case of “transparency and accountability is key” (the words of Cllr Carl Les, NYCC Chairman, when talking about the new North Yorks Council).