The Ambler

Amble's Community Newspaper: News & events from Amble in Northumberland – The Kindliest Port.

Amble school’s multi million pound investment halted

  Plans for the redevelopment of JCSC have now been halted while a review of all schools and colleges takes place.

A multi million pound investment for James Calvert Spence College announced last February will no longer go ahead, after the new administration in Northumberland County Council (NCC) voted to halt the project.

At a meeting in July, county councillors voted to reverse a previous declaration to fund improvements to the Amble school, saying that the plans had never been formally agreed. They promised to work with JCSC in future funding applications.

In February, the Labour – led council announced the £9m project, which would have seen refurbishment of the school on Acklington Road, the closure of the South Avenue site and the construction of one building to house children from both sites.

However the new Conservative – led  administration which took over control of NCC in May has now halted the project, bringing criticism and anger from local Labour councillors, who claim schools in other parts of Northumberland are being favoured, to the detriment of poorer areas like Amble.

 

Review of all schools announced

After the cabinet meeting in July, NCC leader Peter Jackson announced a review of developments for all schools and colleges in the county. He said: “In recent years James Calvert Spence College has received over £1.2 million in repairs, ensuring that its buildings are fit for purpose.

“The new council has given a clear public promise to work with the College to draw up a viable, sustainable scheme to take education in Amble forward and to actively support all applications for future funding for James Calvert Spence.

“As yet I have seen no detailed business case for the £11 million scheme that was previously proposed, and no plan for how it was intended to be paid for, aside from producing more debt for the council.  The scheme had never been formally agreed by the previous council and was just one of a number of projects that were considered before May.

“Cabinet members yesterday agreed that proposals for James Calvert Spence will be considered as part of the wider review of school and college developments in Northumberland and I would like to reiterate my wish to work with the school to come up with a detailed and viable package of improvements.

“Our responsibility is to work in partnership with all schools in our county.”

Disappointment with decision

Councillor Scott Dickinson, former Chair of Governors at JCSC told The Ambler:

James Calvert Spence College Acklington Rd campus. JCSC has 737 pupils aged 9 -18, and was graded as Requires Improvement at its last Ofsted inspection in 2014.

“Naturally, I am disappointed, not because of the many years of work put in by me and the school to get to the decisive point of final approval but for the children and families of the local area. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for children in Amble and surrounding areas to get large scale investment in educational buildings and resource to help the school improve standards and environments for learning.

“This was an opportunity for the Conservative administration to let the children of Amble know that they matter just as much as Alnwick, Morpeth, Ponteland and Prudhoe, unfortunately, they chose not to do that. Instead, they chose to vote against the recommendations left by the previous Labour Administration who had committed to the school and the children of the area.

“In planning for this point there has been much work carried out, from Educational Briefs completed by the school in July 2016 to the architects being appointed in October 2016 to create drawings and plans. Many hours spent meeting, discussing and tweaking plans. NCC Schools Capital team meeting with School leaders and others to keep momentum going and get to the ultimate point of approval. A short delay meant the project missed the March meeting and therefore the Councils Mixed Cabinet couldn’t approve during April, so this unfortunately meant the ultimate point came when the Conservatives were in control and they changed the Cabinet to a single party Cabinet which meant the project stood no chance.

“The Labour Group will continue to support the school and challenge this decision, our commitment remains to the school and Town, the former Leader of the Council attended the Cabinet meeting to be present if the Conservatives had any questions but it was quickly voted down.”

Refurbishment Plans

Back in February, NCC announced the investment, saying: “Planning is underway now for the £9 million investment by Northumberland County Council at James Calvert Spence College in Amble.

“Meetings have taken place between the school, Northumberland County Council officers and designers, to establish the educational vision for the relocation of the middle school onto the James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) site on Acklington Road.   In addition, refurbishment of existing accommodation on the site will be carried out, to form one large college to cater for nine to 13 year olds.

“Initial designs and architectural plans have now been developed and a team of quantity surveyors are currently developing accurate project costs to enable the project to move to the next phase of design.  The building work set to begin in the spring term of 2017.

“The refurbishment of the school site will bring with it modernised classrooms, upgraded social areas and a new sixth form suite. The school will also provide more opportunities for the local community to use the new facilities outside of school hours.”

New councillor Terry Clark, the local Labour member in Amble was angry at the decision and accused the new administration of ignoring Amble. On Facebook he said: “I see that the Tories are once again ignoring Amble whilst pushing ahead with pouring money into new schools in Ponteland. It’s noticeable the  new schools there, sitting in the Tory Leader’s ward, will have many millions poured in to support some of the wealthiest kids in Northumberland, yet some of the County’s poorest young people from Amble are to be denied similar levels of investment, as to the Tories, Amble’s children just don’t matter.”

 

Anna Williams

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