As we have seen from our Education page, Whitby’s secondary schools are largely undersubscribed (particularly the Caedmon College sites), do not provide adequately for young people choosing their A level courses, and consequently the majority (65+%) go to institutions elsewhere. They suffer from undersubscription due to the available school buildings (and associated capacities) not being suitable for the numbers of pupils, due to using the antiquated 11-14, 14-18 split model for many years, and never taking a pause to adequately adapt the infrastructure to the more rational 11-16, 16-18. The sites in question are Caedmon College Normanby (capacity 987), Caedmon College Scoresby (capacity 552), and Eskdale (capacity 510) – note that these capacities are those stated on the UK Government website, not the maximum that the sites could legally hold.
The response from the executive head of Whitby Secondary Partnership to the current inadequacies of the secondary education system was to send out a letter to parents in January 2023 (happy new year!) and request that NYCC close Eskdale School and merge its pupils with those from Caedmon College, and “the newly amalgamated school operate from Normanby and Scoresby sites”. It suggests that there be a short consultation period starting early February, before the merger by September 2023! That would be a very short period of “due diligence” for a decision with long-lasting consequences and providing little information (given that new North Yorkshire Council claims to hold transparency and accountability as being key in their dealings). Whitby Community Network has attempted to get answers out of the school governors, as well as the NYCC Portfolio Holder for Education. The school governors did not reply, however the NYCC Portfolio Holder did.
On 30th January 2023 NYCC posted the proposal from Whitby Secondary Partnership on its website. The effective date for this proposal was then put back to 1st September 2024, which provided more acclimatisation time should a change be made, but still does not open the consultation out to other options. On 7th February the NYCC Executive Councillor for Education approved the proposal, and it went ahead to consultation between 20th February until 31st March. The consultation results have been published here. On 18 April, NYCC announce the decision to approve the move of the proposal to the next stage. Between 27th April and 25th May there will be a second consultation. On 20th June, the final NYCC decision on the overall proposal will be announced.
In terms of the scope of the proposal, considering children already at secondary school, this decision will impact on the education of currently 1053 pupils aged 11-16, and 136 pupils aged 16-18 (numbers from the proposal document). The proposal is seemingly based around split-site 11-16, with sixth form remaining at the Caedmon College Scoresby site. As is known, “split-site schooling” does not work so pupils in an academic year should always be doing all of their studying at a single site (as should teachers, unless they have adequate time to get across sites); there are ample anecdotes from the current Caedmon College set-up where teachers turn up 20 mins late due to having a class on the other site just before with no space in their timetable to get across), so it is peculiar that this is the suggested option. For the sake of the education of pupils, the end goal has to be using 11-16 groupings on a site so as to provide education stability and avoid split site schooling, and not simply having pupils being divided up because the available buildings only allow some arrangement; school buildings should be designed to accomodate children, not the other way around.
Why has Whitby never had a purpose built school for 11-16 built, and the last school built was in 1963? Why is there no plan to address the sixth form issue, particularly given the idea that everyone should be travelling less by 2030?
The Eskdale site comprises 7.5ha, being a mix of classrooms, car parking, and sports fields (including a 3G pitch, and the Fishburn Park pitch if that comes under the deeds ).
In terms of the specifics of the Eskdale School land, the map adjacent shows the land registry portions. The area outlined in blue (3G pitch, plus car park and changing rooms) cannot be sold off without written consent by the Football Foundation.
Bearing in mind Broomfield Phase 1 houses are now not selling fast, development of Phase 1 will be slowed down. As a direct consequence the development of Phase 2 will take longer to even reach planning, never mind the “Net Zero Village” development. NYCC would be unlikely to find a developer keen to provide houses in such a situation, in the middle of a massive housing development with no school nearby. As a result the very closure of Eskdale School would likely reduce land price. It would also mean that the viability of Broomfield Farm Phase 1, Phase 2 and NetZero Village would be reduced.
Compare that with the land around Caedmon College Normanby site, much more central, with a school not too far (Caedmon College Scoresby site).
The vast majority of pupils attending Eskdale School come from residential areas on Whitby east side. The typical catchment areas for Eskdale School are listed below
|Number Of Houses
|Eskdale Road estate
|Helredale Gardens area
|Phoenix Park, off Larpool Lane
|Abbots Rd, Abbots Walk, St Peters Rd etc
|Larpool Lane, Larpool Cres etc
|Green Lane, The Ropery etc
|Green Lane New Gardens
|Broomfield Phase 1
|Broomfield Phase 2
|Net Zero Village
Consequently the order of 1400 current residences, with a further 600 being built within the next few years, the majority being immediately adjacent to Eskdale School; in fact, the east side is the area of Whitby with by far and away the majority of the current residential building taking place. This suggests that the numbers of pupils that will be required to attend secondary school from the east side is only going to increase in the next few years. In the “proposal” it is claimed that around 62 new pupils will appear from the “new housing”; but which new housing was considered in that calculation? Using the numbers above there are around 600 future residences, at the current factor of 0.13 secondary age pupils per residence, which means 78 new secondary school age pupils, not the 62 quoted in the proposal.
Since the housing developments are being made immediately around Eskdale School it does beggar belief that NYCC then want to close that school; what NYCC should be doing is proper planning for the additional pupils moving to this area, and integrating that with the housing strategy (there is a strategy for housing isn’t there? or is it just a coincidence that all of these developments are around Eskdale). The less time that pupils spend travelling to school, the more time they have for their studies.
School Travel Plan
Whitby Community Network (WCN) determined from previous consultations with Whitby Secondary Partnership that use of bicycles is not part of the school Travel Plan for this groups of schools, due to the utter absence of cycle infrastructure in Whitby and District (NYCC lack of investment), and due to the lack of a default 20mph speed limit (waiting on NYCC to implement Default 20mph in Whitby). Nothing will change in this regard with this proposal.
It should be pointed out that to provide a true travel plan for schools in this town we need access to a Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) that defines cycling and walking corridors. Whitby still does not have one due to lack of investment from NYCC.
That leaves us with walking to school, or using vehicles. Clearly use of vehicles should be discouraged from a perspective of the health of the child, never mind the absence of road space near either of the Caedmon College sites for dropping off and picking up children. Considering walking, we have a single viable walking route to get to Caedmon College site(s), across Whitby New Bridge. The only other (river) crossing near Caedmon is the Larpool Viaduct, but the Cinder Track has no safe connecting path from the Larpool area (Larpool Lane has always been unsafe), nor from the Broomfield Farm area (one is due to be added during Broomfield Farm Phase 2, but that is likely to be 2025 or later, since Broomfield Phase 1 houses are not selling fast, and Phase 2 hasn’t even reached initial planning), so we discount this from any calculations.
With around 500 children walking across Whitby New Bridge around the same time each day, and with the road being (currently) 40mph, and the footpaths not being particularly wide, that would be considered putting children in unnecessary danger, and would be enough on its own to rule out such a proposal. One remedy is to drop the speed limit across this bridge. Dropping it to 30mph will not resolve the safety aspects required with children walking to school. We have recently successfully campaigned for a default 20mph across Whitby, and consequently dropping the speed limit across New Bridge and part of Mayfield Road to 20mph would be needed for such a proposal to be even remotely viable. This would clearly impact on vehicle journey times so should be borne in mind when considering it. NYCC Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee recently voted (19th Jan 2023) that outside ALL SCHOOLS and places of high pedestrian footfall the speed limit should be 20mph, so this would be unescapable.
If the pupils from Eskdale School would have to travel to Caedmon College Normanby site, where are the road crossing facilities to allow for walking along Mayfield Road to get across to Caedmon College? The sole crossing on the length of Mayfield Road is at the junction with Prospect Hill and it is the antithesis of a pedestrian-oriented junction; you wait 3 minutes for lights to change to be able to get across. For this “proposal” to be workable the traffic system on Mayfield Road should undergo a full reassessment and redesign, bearing in mind the long list of outstanding issues. Note that we have ignored the issues around the Spital Bridge / Larpool Lane junction, which is a known issue with NYCC with still no sign of action.
The walking time from the far end of Broomfield Phase 1 would be the order of 35 minutes (slightly less if the CinderTrack route could eventually be used), which is at the level of being unviable and a bus service would be needed (the “Sainsburys number 95” bus would have to have its route adapted).
Playing Pitch Strategy
Where is the assessment of the Playing Pitch Strategy for the Whitby area, should Eskdale School be closed? You cannot simply add extra facilities around the Caedmon School(s) area, since there is no more space. Caedmon College Normanby site is deficient in terms of playing fields so can never provide for the numbers they have been trying to cram in there.
Considering the existing sports infra around Eskdale, the 3G pitch and the existing changing rooms are part of a covenant so cannot be sold (without permission). Fishburn Park’s pitch really needs some sort of changing rooms.
It has been stated by exec headteacher that there is the opportunity to rename the school, and at least one NYCC councillor seems to think that is a magic cure for cancer. This is symptomatic of the problem with the educational system in Whitby; a lack of desire to tackle the real problem and solely window-dress. Changing a name does nothing for the education of these children. Changing a name and school imposes unsatisfactory costs on parents, in terms of uniforms etc.
We can spell it out for you, the problem is having school infrastructure that meets the needs of the pupils, and that means consistent schooling from 11-16 without having to go to some other site for facilities. The name doesn’t make a good education.
Resolving the Sixth Form Problems
Retention of young people in education in Whitby beyond 16 is the most significant problem in this area, and 65% of pupils go elsewhere at 16 for their further education, due to perceived lack of options. Why does Eskdale School currently pay an amount of money to fill this blackhole? This “proposal” seemingly does nothing, at all, to address this problem, simply shuffling deckchairs on the titanic. Where is the thought into offering different courses? Where is the consideration for apprenticeships leading to having a trade? Why is the SBC Maritime Academy vanity project not being rolled up into this “proposal”? Why was the Woodsmith technical college located in Scarborough and now lumbers along with just 135 pupils out of a 600 capacity, when that role could have been fulfilled using existing 6th form facilities in Whitby? Where is the rationalisation of all 16-19 offerings so that we have an actual STRATEGY? Let’s have that discussion.
To operate most cost efficiently, the schooling system needs to operate schools that are well subscribed. The problem with Whitby secondary schools is the legacy 11-14 model, and the lack of willingness on the part of NYCC to invest in a proper 11-16 system. To this end, Eskdale is simply a scapegoat in this “proposal”. The best option for 11-16 schooling would be to retain Eskdale as just that (with capacity to cater for the incoming housing), and develop Caedmon to better fit this model. Developing Caedmon to fit that model would likely best be performed using the Scoresby site since it is the largest available site and could cater for all sporting needs for the 11-16 age group. The impact of this is that the Caedmon Normanby site would need to be significantly adapted to provide whatever 16-19 offering NYCC is going to provide Whitby young people.
Saying “… with a shortfall of 52 students per head the school continues to fall short”, as Councillor Trumper remarked, is ignoring the elephant in the room; the Caedmon sites are the largest drain on resources, and that is because they do not fit the pupil base.
School meals are an issue at the Caedmon College Normanby site currently, and that is with 621 pupils, with inadequate capacity for feeding that number with the current facilities seemingly. The catering facilities were, no doubt, designed for the original grammar school which had far fewer pupils, however the site has hosted a much larger number in the past, so maybe these were isolated incidents die to bad planning? Any change to this dynamic by increasing pupils will only expose any lack of capacity even further. Should there be significant pupils at Caedmon College Scoresby the capacity for meals at that site needs to handle the number being housed there. Should a site need more pupils then the capacity of catering would need upgrading also.
Green Space Impact
As can be seen from the Green Space analysis, Whitby already has a large deficit in green space due to years of neglect by Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), continually eroding the available space. Should Eskdale School be closed, we presume that the 3G pitch (0.75ha) and Fishburn Park (0.75ha) pitch would remain. However the remaining playing field area would presumably be lost. This would mean that the Eskdale School playing field area, rather than being 6.0ha currently, would drop to 1.5ha. When we scale that for the TTWA that means 0.8ha in the table on the Green Space page for Eskdale School (and 0.6ha for accessible area). The resultant Sports subtotal numbers then become 17.4ha (from 19.8ha), and 13.0ha (from 14.8ha). This means that instead of having a 3.0ha deficit of Sports green space, we would then have a deficit of 5.4ha. And taking into account accessibility of green space, instead of having a deficit of 7.7ha of Sports green space, we would then have a deficit of 9.5ha.
Using rule HC14 of the current Local Plan, it would be prohibited to re-assign (including sell off) the playing fields component of Eskdale School. To quote “The redevelopment of existing open spaces and outdoor sports facilities, including those identified within the Green Space Audit […] for non-open space uses will only be permitted where […] there is an identified surplus of that type of open space or sports provision in that locality and the site cannot be reclassified to meet an identified deficit in another form of open space or sports provision; or, a replacement open space of an equal or higher quantity and quality can be provided in a nearby accessible location”. There is no such surplus. This means that there would only be the order of 1.75ha of brown field (the school buildings, car park, and playground) possible to be reclassified.
Clearly this also directly impacts on SBC’s desire to bury people on Larpool Playing Field, since there’d then be even less green space (whether public access, or school access) on east side. That would mean having the order of 1700 houses in the Helredale/Eskdale area with just a 3G pitch to use (not free-to-use access) and maybe access to Fishburn Park’s pitch. No pronouncements from NYCC yet on what they plan on doing to fix the problems with Whitby green space.