A £20m rebuild of a Newton Aycliffe school is being put forward to enhance standards of education for students.
Durham County Council’s Cabinet will next week be recommended to agree to the redevelopment of Greenfield Community College following an options appraisal.
Councillors will also be asked to approve consultation being carried out on the permanent closure of the school’s Sunnydale site at Shildon, following the decision to temporarily close it last year on health and safety grounds.
The meeting next Wednesday (October 13) will be reminded how following an Ofsted inspection judgement of ‘inadequate’, Sunnydale School in Shildon was amalgamated with Greenfield School at Newton Aycliffe. Greenfield School was enlarged at the beginning of 2015 to become Greenfield Community College, following the closure of Sunnydale as a separate school.
Education was initially delivered across both sites but a report to Cabinet sets out how this did not address the underlying challenges evident before the amalgamation. The split-site approach has limited the delivery of a broad curriculum impacting on standards while pupil numbers continued to fall.
The meeting will be reminded how in January 2020 all pupils began to be taught on the Greenfield site, after health and safety concerns led governors to temporarily close Sunnydale.
Cabinet will be told that council officers have considered options for improved educational provision.
They acted in response to falling pupil numbers impacting on standards and financially viability of the school across two sites; and Ofsted inspections and Department for Education advisers identifying the split-site arrangement as inhibiting educational improvement and progress.
The report sets out how of four options considered, making the current temporary arrangements permanent and consulting on closure of the Sunnydale site is “the most compelling in terms of all factors – enhanced standards, minimal disruption to learning, improvement of accommodation and cost efficiency.”
It tells councillors that the decision to locate all pupils at Greenfield temporarily has allowed for a better standard of education and how a recent Ofsted monitoring visit reflected the improvements arising from moving to single-site provision.
Councillors will be told that it would cost around £20m to remodel the Aycliffe site to accommodate all pupils in an improved educational environment, and that funding would be sought either through the National Schools Rebuilding Programme or the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan.
Cllr Ted Henderson, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “The provision of a high standard of education to our children and young people is at the heart of everything we do and the options appraisal we have carried out for Greenfield Community College has sought to explore how best to provide this in a form that will be sustainable for the communities it serves in the long term.
“The split-site education offered until last January at Greenfield Community College has not addressed some of the longstanding issues and we know that since all students have been taught together on one site improvements have been made.
“We also know that both Ofsted and the Department for Education have advocated a move to a single-site school to offer the best possible education.
“While we fully appreciate there is a desire in the Shildon community for secondary education to be offered there, pupil numbers show there is not a justification for this either educationally or financially.
“We firmly believe that a rebuilt Greenfield Community College is the best option to provide a sustainable long term model of education for the communities it serves and that this would allow the school to build on the improvements made since moving to a single site.”