In May this year parents in Whitley Bay and Monkseaton were given a glossy booklet by North Tyneside Council explaining their proposed options for school reorganisation. Despite earlier assurances, there was no option given for retaining an enhanced three tier system of education provision. The council’s preferred option is to close four middle schools, and extend/build other sites to accomodate the children in a two tier system of education.

There is, however, a much wider picture to consider when looking at this issue. In 1997, the council were asked by the Dfee (Department for Education and Employment – see links – to cut 1023 surplus places in schools in the borough. The author of this order was the then schools minister, Mr.Stephen Byers – also of course a local MP since 1992.

The reorganisation of schools in the borough was proposed as the answer to this order, which is why the council keep saying they have a statutory duty to review school provision. Our schools are to be changed under Phase 3 of the borough-wide reorganisation. North Tyneside would then have all schools in a two tier system. The main problem we have with this is that surplus places are not and never were a major problem in the Whitely Bay/Monkseaton pyramids.

The argument about the benefits of the two tier system versus the three tier can and does go on forever. Even the education commission which the council paid for could not conclude that one system is better than the other. One of the authors of the research misquoted by the council told us that it boils down to individual schools and teachers. We think that our schools’ performance speaks for itself. Our schools consistently achieve good and improving results. Though there has been no official release yet of the 2000 results, both Marden Bridge Middle and Valley Gardens Middle have Key stage 2 SATs results which have gone well up on last year’s, and are above the national average. Whitley Bay High is the only maintained school in the borough to be placed in the top 600 nationally for its GCSE results.

Since in our opinion there are no sound supportable educational reasons for change, we can only conclude that the real reasons are to do with money. Closing schools and putting children into extended sites frees up the land from the closed schools and saves on certain running costs. We know that local authorities all over the country are going down this route because of certain governmnet policies and initiatives.