ASPIRE outlines six crucial ingredients for success based on feedback from schools and parents.

The council’s consultation put forward three options, which included the closure of up to 16 rural schools. The consultation also asked staff, parents and the wider community for their views and ideas.

We are responding with our “ASPIRE” vision, drawing on both practical and innovative suggestions from across the Hexham and Haydon Bridge partnerships to outline a way forward.

ASPIRE calls for a model of education that maintains and builds on the successful outcomes already achieved by schools across West Northumberland whilst also ensuring their future viability and sustainability.

ASPIRE stands for:

A – alliance
S – size
P – parental choice
I – innovative
R– rural
E – experience

Our schools need to work together to deliver the education we want for our children and to help them transition between Key Stages. NCC must think about how it invests across all age groups to make the biggest difference and benefit from the new funding formula. In its “alternative model” Corbridge Middle School proposed the formation of education hubs to “create more all-through collaborations” (

STARS would like to see an education system which supports schools to work together to support every child, rather than one in which schools are focused only on children within their walls

NCC’s Options A and B create a single ‘super-school’ with over 2,200 children. It would be the fifth biggest school of its type in England. In comparison, the remaining primaries would be among the smallest. Our current education model manages each child’s journey in a series of stages. Small rural schools feed into larger rural middles, which feed into one of two high schools. This means children are carefully transitioned into larger environments but does mean more transitions overall.

All the proposals we have seen for moving to two tier education have to recreate the transitions in a different form – merging schools into bigger primaries (with bigger catchment areas), creating clusters of schools with a hub for years 5 and 6, or schools within schools to help children adapt to a much larger environment.

STARS would like to see an education model which is financially sustainable without relying on growing schools to a size which reduces pastoral care for children

Parental Choice
Closing up to 16 first schools, creating a ‘super-school’ or moving to a two-tier system would inevitably reduce the choices available to parents in future. This could lead to a position where if a school deteriorated, children would be unable to find a better one. It could also lead to a curriculum which is not broad enough for children whose talents are not in core academic subjects.

STARS would like to see an education system which maintains and supports parental choice. We believe Haydon Bridge High School must be saved if this is to be a reality

Across the UK and internationally schools are exploring new and innovative models of teaching and learning. These include more collaborative models where teachers work across multiple schools to deliver specialist education, online learning to provide a wider range for quality education so sixth formers have access to the best teachers nationally and a broader range of subjects and apprenticeships where employers and young people work together to develop the skills they need.

STARS would like to see the council thinking more creatively about its education model and how children are taught, rather than just focusing on the buildings they are taught in.

Northumberland is the most rural county in England and the communities of West Northumberland are among the most sparsely populated in the County. The transport network is poor with many single-track roads and a lack of public transport between villages and towns. The schools are at the heart of communities – providing facilities for wider use and attracting young families. Some provide nursery care to enable parents to work.

The proposed merged catchment for Bellingham Middle is almost the size of Tyne and Wear combined.  The catchment for a Hexham super-school would cover over 1,000 square miles ( larger than the size of Greater London). Such changes would increase travel locally by at least 375,000 miles per annum, putting rural children at a disadvantage to their urban peers, exacerbating pollution, congestion and wear and tear on already poor roads.

STARS would like to see rural schools given every opportunity to thrive so they can continue to support their communities and economies

Our schools produce exceptional standards – but what parents tell us they value is the experience their children get. We’ve heard lots from parents whose children have special needs met in unique and valuable ways by their schools, and from parents who have moved between schools for a more creative curriculum or more pastoral care. It’s clear that parents value the journey as much as the academic outcome.

STARS would like Northumberland County Council to develop a model which considers the experience of children as much as the academic outcomes




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