July 17, 2008

Education Reform Reaches Milestone ; Doors Close for Last Time at Middle Schools

By Dave Black

ARADICAL education reform programme in Northumberland reaches a major milestone tomorrow when the first tranche of the county's 44 middle schools are consigned to the history books.

More than 1,000 pupils will be affected when the end of term sees Cramlington's four middle schools close their doors for the last time, under the controversial switch to two-tier education.

The town is the first area to be reorganised as part of the Putting the Learner First project, which is ending the county's three-tier system of schools and introducing a new structure of primaries and secondaries.

Cramlington's four middles Stonelaw, Brockwell, Parkside and Southlands are the first in Northumberland to disappear, and will do so on the back of excellent results in the latest key stage two tests.

Resentment continues to linger among many parents over the abolition of Northumberland's three-tier system, and special events have been held at the four Cramlington schools in recent weeks to celebrate their past and mark their demise.

When pupils return from the summer holidays they will resume their education at new primary and secondary schools which have been created as part of the pounds 28m shake-up in Cramlington.

Yesterday Andy Youngs, headteacher at Stonelaw Middle, said the four schools were bowing out after their pupils achieved excellent recent test results in science, English and maths, which were well above the national average.

"The results are considerably up on previous years and this bodes well for the kids when they go on to the new secondary school in September. The students have enjoyed a very good end of term and carried themselves with aplomb.

"Two-tier education is going ahead in Cramlington and we wish the new schools every success in the future in catering for the different age groups.

There is no point in looking backwards now."

Ron Stewart, headteacher at Parkside Middle, said more than 200 people attended a recent open day held to allow the local community to have a last look around the school and view archive material.

"I am very, very sorry that we are closing for the last time on Friday. This school was the first to open in Cramlington in 1909 and a lot of people are going to miss it.

"We have just had our best key stage two test results ever and, although the three-tier debate is water under the bridge now, there is still a lot of strong feeling among many parents.

"They feel their children will be worse off for not having the middle school experience."

Two-tier education is going ahead in Cramlington ... There is no point looking backwards now

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