As a direct follow-on from the current consultation into the proposal to close Eskdale School and amalgamate withe Caedmon College, we have written an open letter to Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, Exec Cllr for Education at NYCC.
Dear Councillor Wilkinson
First of all we would like to thank NYCC and the Governors for the Public meeting, and the excellent way you chaired a difficult meeting in the evening. I am sure none of us expected the outcome from the evening meeting with regard to the serious allegations of bullying and drug taking, and lack of food and water at Caedmon – Normanby site. I gather this has been common knowledge in Whitby for a long time, and the incident on the following Monday was a horrendous outcome of what appears to be the failing of the secondary school system in Whitby. We feel it would be helpful to the community if NYC commenced some dialogue with the community to identify what is being done to take this issue seriously.
We would like have a greater understanding of the position of North Yorkshire (County) Council (NYC) on provision of educational services for the Whitby catchment area, so we can respond with a better understanding for the proposal to amalgamate Caedmon College and Eskdale School from 1 September 2024 resulting in the closure of Eskdale School, Whitby.
Background : Whitby has a very different school catchment area, as well as a totally separate travel to work area to Scarborough – see attached maps, in fact Filey is much closely related to Scarborough on both counts. The decline in pupil numbers in Whitby appears to have accelerated since 2016 when the University Technical College was first opened in Scarborough, and more homes in Whitby have disappeared into second and holiday property markets, forcing young people and families out of Whitby & District.
We have been reviewing the reports submitted to the Scarborough and Whitby Area Constituency Committee – for example the minutes submitted to the Friday, 25th November, 2022 meeting, Minute 26: Schools, Educational Achievement & Finance and could find no plan for improving the education standards in Whitby or for dealing with falling pupil numbers which we find surprising following the announcement by the Governors shortly afterwards. Also it was disappointing to find that neither the long standing Councillors representing the catchment area, nor the Council officers appear to have queried why the Whitby Area catchment figures were never separated from the Scarborough catchment area, and why a plan had not been put in place to address this issue when falling numbers were first identified. The need for three senior schools in Whitby has been discussed for many years and we have never understood why a new school has not been built to save on maintenance and heating costs. The council appears to have failed to take any action to rectify this issue, and to ensure money was directed to educational needs in an area where achievement standards are below North Yorkshire and National Standards.
We are still extremely concerned over the Governance of the schools, how the decision was reached and the make-up of the school Governor’s board. We even emailed Mr Barry Khan, Assistant Chief Executive – legal and democratic services on the 23rd of January to ascertain if the proposal had been agreed according to the Constitution (this was not available to view) with the decision appearing to be invalid according to the Instrument of Government, however we failed to receive any response. These concerns appear to be still valid as the new appointments have not given a suitable cross section of parents, community and educational professionals. Also why has no local authority governor been in place since this Secondary school partnership was set up in 2019?
We have been advised at a meeting with the NYC Stronger Communities team that the new Council will not work in “Silos”, however there appears to be no sign of this with regard to this school proposal for Whitby. We are particularly concerned over the lack of ambition for education in the Whitby catchment area for both education and skills training for school aged pupils and adults, bearing in mind the advancements made and already in use in other countries for rural areas such as metaverse education. We would have expected with the launch of the NYC Climate Change Strategy Consultation, that distance to learning, the 15 minute neighbourhoods, and the need to reduce private car mileage by 48% would have been included into any long term planning for future education needs.
The proposal made by the Governors to the staff and via the letter to parents/carers from The Whitby Secondary Partnership in January 2023 is surely not the type of communication strategy fitting of a council wishing to be “the most local of all councils“. Can you please endeavour to provide better communication of such changes to local communities in the future?
We would like an open discussion of the education and skills training needs for the Whitby catchment area, and would welcome yourself (and indeed our NYC councillors who really ought to be representing residents interests on this, and other issues) to one of the Whitby Community Network meetings, particularly should you have something to offer that would improve the education and skills training of all our residents.
Whitby Community Network