A public consultation has been launched into plans for a new specialist school in Newton Aycliffe.
Durham Gateway Academy has been proposed for young people from across the county who are not flourishing in mainstream secondary education but would thrive in a setting offering practical, skills-based learning.
If it gets the go ahead, it would be based in the Aycliffe Business Park adjacent to the existing South West Durham Training facility, and would boast a unique curriculum, integrating academic and vocational learning with the development of social, life and employability skills.
Training would be offered in industry-standard facilities, with subjects including engineering, construction, welding, plumbing and electrical installations, as well as catering, sport, childcare, hairdressing and beauty therapy.
The Academy would be open to young people aged 13 to 16, including those who may be at risk of exclusion, from across the county and other neighbouring authorities.
A unique alternative provision free school, Durham Gateway Academy would offer a clear route towards apprenticeships and employment.
Students would be supported to develop key employability skills including preparing applications and CVs, conducting interviews, punctuality, communication skills, self- confidence and social skills.
They would also have a supported internship or work placement in an industry related to the selected vocational study option.
Other extra-curricular activities would include health and fitness sessions, team-building exercises such as outward-bound and team sports, educational visits, volunteering opportunities and mentoring from business coaches.
All places at Durham Gateway Academy would have to be commissioned by other schools and academies within County Durham or local authorities; the Academy would not operate in competition with existing providers.
The proposer of the Academy is Gateway North Academy Trust and the sponsor is Bishop Auckland College, which has been providing vocational education for 60 years.
An eight-week public consultation into the proposed Academy runs until Friday August 17 to provide opportunities for feedback and suggestions on how best to set up and operate the new school.
As part of this, three drop-in sessions will be held at the proposed site in Newton Aycliffe and will include a tour of the building which would be developed.
They will be held on Wednesday July 4 from 6pm to 7.30pm, Saturday July 14 from 10am – 11.30am, and Wednesday July 18 from 10am – 11.30am.
Target groups for the consultation include potential parents and students who are likely to be interested in the proposed school, representatives of schools and local authorities, businesses and business forums, local residents and community groups, and the County Durham and Darlington MPs.
If the proposal wins public support and the backing of the Department for Education, it would open in Spring 2020 and accommodate a maximum of 120 places when full.
Pamela Petty, chair of the Gateway North Academy Trust Board (pictured above), said: “A key strength of the vision for Durham Gateway Academy is its potential to accelerate the progress of its students through vocational routes to employment.
“Combined with well-established employer links for work placements and apprenticeships in a wide range of industries, this unique learning offer would provide a springboard to employment and bright futures for the Academy’s students.”
• To complete an online questionnaire or register to attend one of the consultation events, visit durhamgatewayacademy.com or email [email protected] who can also supply hard copies of the questionnaire.