Sixth form education could be lost in Whitby if the closure of Eskdale School does not go ahead, warns North Yorkshire’s education boss.
The frank admission came from Pete Dwyer, the corporate director of Children and Young People’s Services, in his first open interview since news broke of proposals to merge Eskdale School with Caedmon College back in January.
Speaking to the Whitby Gazette ahead of next week’s public meetings on the most controversial issue to hit local education for years, Mr Dwyer has urged people to think about the bigger picture.
He said: “There is a huge amount of interest, concern, emotion and passion and that shows people care about education and that is important.
“We are hearing a lot of challenges and objection, but what we are not hearing is how do we tackle the issues that we face and what are the alternatives to that.”
He said should nothing change and Eskdale moves to an 11-16 from September, as originally planned, that would take pupil numbers and funding away from Caedmon.
He also questions whether Eskdale, which is deemed by Ofsted to be requiring improvement, can deliver quality GSCE stage education.
Mr Dwyer said: “Those 200 children, instead of going to Caedmon for Key Stage 4 would stay at Eskdale.
“Have we got confidence that a school struggling to provide good education at Key Stage 3 can deliver at Key Stage 4?
“Are we happy for what would be close to £1 million to be taken out of the Caedmon school budget?
“The only way the school would deal with that is reductions in teaching staff - maybe 20 teachers.
“In my view that would jeopardise the quality of what goes on at Caedmon.
“It raises questions about whether they can sustain the sixth form.”
Having a larger establishment is also proven to attract more teachers, especially in coastal areas where recruitment is difficult, he added.
“That is the debate we want to open up without scaremongering but it is a real risk. That is the kind of debate we want to open up rather than ‘Eskdale is good and Caedmon is bad’.”
The issue of choice he says is a valid one, but elsewhere in the authority there is only one school in comparable sized areas and Whitby is also the last area to have a middle tier education system.
Last night (Thursday) a short film featuring a recording of a song with singer and former Eskdale pupil Alistair Griffin was screened and next week there are two public meetings being held to further discuss the proposal.
The same information will be presented on both Monday and Tuesday at the Pavilion from 6.30pm. There will be an overview from Mr Dwyer and Cllr Arthur Barker and then questions will be taken from the floor.