‘This is the moment of change we’ve needed’
Berwick Academy leaders have welcomed a council pledge to spend £15million on a new high school for the town.
The surprise spending announcement was made by Northumberland County Council at last week’s budget meeting.
Acting head Tracy Hush and chairman of governors Donna Goddard said it was excellent news for the school and for the wider Berwick community.
“It’s fantastic news because this is Northumberland County Council putting their money where their mouth is,” said Mrs Goddard.
“We’re very excited about it,” added Mrs Hush. “This is the moment of change we’ve needed. That financial investment gives us the ability to make things happen rapidly and work towards our goal of providing outstanding education in Berwick.”
Further discussions to build up the business case will be held over the coming months but it is understood the new school will be built on the existing site.
“The current school buildings are not fit for purposeand we’re not short of land so I think we’ll be looking to rebuild on site, although I would hope there will be elements of the existing buildings which can be included,” said Mrs Hush.
She hopes the new build will also help to drive up educational standards.
“There is no doubt that having a new school will help to increase the confidence and self-belief of pupils,” said Mrs Hush. “It will do the same for parents, staff and the wider community because it’s a physical manifestation of our investment in young people.”
Mrs Goddard added: “There are some incredibly bright students here but some have struggled for aspiration. By giving them a new school it will hopefully encourage them to reach for the stars. I think it’s important we all share that belief.”
The school has had well documented problems over the past year, from the resignation of previous head Alexis Widdowson to a damning Ofsted report which judged it to be ‘inadequate’. Then, in December, the school was handed a financial notice to improve.
“The Academy has had an incredible amount of support from the council and Regional Schools Council in facing its financial issues,” said Mrs Goddard. “We can not go back under local authority control but they have been there for us.
“It’s a red herring for people to think we’re in trouble because we’re an academy. We would still have been competing with brand new schools in Eyemouth, Duns and Alnwick and we would still have had the problem of our unique geographical location but we’ve now been given the opportunity to get it right.”