Agenda item

Proposal to amalgamate Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School.


That the Executive resolve that

i.    the issues listed above in section 9 of the report have been satisfied and there can be a determination of the proposals.

ii.   The proposal to amalgamate Eskdale School and Caedmon College Whitby be determined through:

·       Ceasing to maintain Eskdale School from 31 August 2024.

·       Increasing the published admission number of Caedmon College Whitby, from 1 September 2024. The current admission number for Caedmon College Whitby is 184 and the proposed admission number for Caedmon College Whitby (as the amalgamated school) will be 240



Considered – A report of the Corporate Director for Children & Young People’s Service providing information upon which to determine the proposal to amalgamate Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School, resulting in the technical closure of Eskdale School and the Eskdale site and an increase in the planned admission number for the amalgamated school, from 1 September 2024.


Councillor Annabel Wilkinson introduced the report and drew attention to the scale of the consultation responses.  She also acknowledged the difficult nature of the decision to be taken, given its impact on the residents of Whitby, and noted that everyone present wanted the best for the young people of Whitby.  She suggested that the proposal offered the opportunity to address the low pupil numbers, significant financial challenges at both schools and the imperative to secure the best education and curriculum for the young people of Whitby.


It was noted that six public submissions had been received, as follows:


1. Mr David Bradley

I am writing to you again because I honestly do not believe that the above proposal is in the best interest of young learners and the wider community. I have lived near Whitby for thirty-two years and been privileged to serve as a secondary headteacher for nearly twenty years - fourteen at Eskdale School. I have a strong network of ex-colleagues and friends who believe that this plan is ill-conceived and fundamentally flawed – a view which is strongly endorsed by the very recent “Vision for Whitby” survey.


Everyone that I have spoken with accepts the fact that the current situation of surplus places cannot continue. However, putting all the 11-16 cohort onto the oldest site with the smallest playing fields and adjacent to one of the busiest roads in Whitby is not the best or safest option. In my opinion, other options have not been properly considered. A very small number of ‘federated’ governors, assisted by officers of the local authority, have devised a plan which solves the current financial problems but, will undoubtedly store up significant issues in the medium and longer term. I call upon our elected members to be brave enough to halt this process immediately before we sleepwalk into another short-term solution.


The current situation in Whitby is intolerable for children, parents, and staff. North Yorkshire Council need to transform it, not follow the example of their predecessors. As a new unitary authority, they should grasp the opportunity to make ambitious, inventive, and innovative decisions which are a force for good. A variety of options should be explored and presented to our young people, many of whom will be the parents of tomorrow in this community. These options must be costed and future-proofed, unlike the current proposal. We have not been given the financial value of the three sites. We have not been given costings to upgrade the former Whitby School.  We have not been given the cost of escorting students across Mayfield Road and we do not know the cost to the environment of buses being parked on the main road.


We do know that there is £10 million available for the maritime hub. Surely, this should be factored into overall provision for the secondary sector. If more people do move into the Whitby area, which seems likely, how will we accommodate them in a 1920s building with a ‘ragbag’ collection of buildings and very few eco-friendly attributes as well as a distinct shortage of playing fields? If the Sixth Form numbers stay the same or dwindle, there is little chance of the revenue budget being able to maintain the buildings at the former Caedmon School. How long will it be before buildings here need to be mothballed, shut, or sold?


Frankly, the proposal offered by the Federated Governing Body is not fit-for-purpose and should be rejected without any more hesitation


2. Mrs Terrie-Ann Jones

I sit here again, last time I had hope that the people in this room would see the big picture of Whitby Secondary Education, this time I know the decisions made in this room aren't about the evidence, aren't about the people’s voices. It's about money you will walk out of here like you did in April and not give the decision a second thought.


You don't have to look at staff who are emotional and mentally drained, who have no idea what their futures hold.  You don't have to tell a child who has escaped their bullies that they will have to see them every day or travel 30 mins every day so they can escape.  You don't have to tell the child with SEND that their safe place that the teachers they are attached to will be changing but you have no idea what will happen because the governors have not thought that far ahead.


The reports you have in front of you, are not the full picture.   The 6th form, which is at the centre of this proposal has already had £600,000+ of public funds spent on it. What impact has this had on Education and attendence? Where are the guarantees that closing Eskdale will boost 6th form number and all 11-16 education in Whitby will not continue to fund it.  That only one option was discussed and decided on in September 2022. The consultation was a tick the box exercise, our children our committee never stood a chance.


Did you know that the split site funding stops, if they don't acadamise quickly the drop in budget has to be covered by NYC?


The Governors have refused to engage with stakeholders including the town council since January.  Transparency, Honesty two things seriously lacking. - we can show you every piece of raw evidence we have - we have nothing to hide.  We have parented, worked, and dedicated the last 6 months to getting the best for our children, and the future of Whitby. This will affect generations …. Unlike you we can't walk away and forget.  We will have to deal with the aftermath, we have to pick up the pieces.


I have 5 questions for you:

How many of you have visited the schools, spoken to staff and Children?

How many of you have done extra research into this subject considering, the Town Council have asked for the governing board to step down - for lack of interaction.

If this is the all singing all dancing solution, why aren't the governors and NYC shouting it from the roof tops, with glossy images course models, staffing models??

Why did NYC and The Governors Defer Caedmon’s Ofsted? - when it could prove it was a good school, with strong leadership and a brilliant base for an amalgamated school.

Who is Education For?


3. Peter Graham

Action should have been taken long before the occupancy of Secondary schools in Whitby got as low as 60%.  The main reason for the problem is the 6th form at only 28.4% which would have been worse if £664k had not been spent reducing its capacity to 483 from 550 with little or no return on the investment yet.  How are the numbers going to treble quickly to make it viable?


How much is it costing for energy for this school year? - There has been a 500% increase for schools with a poor fabric due to the current energy crisis. My estimate is £208k similar to Eskdale or over £1500 per student 3 x that of Eskdale. By looking at the Government websites for both schools there is only ONE school that has significant financial challenges.


In July 2017 Caedmon had £885k in the bank and 5 years later this had reduced by £1.28m to - £394k despite making a sudden profit of £211k in 2021-2.  Eskdale in the same period moved from a small negative to £44k an improvement of £68k despite a sudden loss of £71k.


The 3 main areas of concern to me suggests not only has Caedmon grossly overspent, it’s starting to milk Eskdale dry.

                                                          Eskdale.                      Caedmon.

Full time teachers salaries.     +£660k. 27.8 to 28.3         -£480k. 65 to 47.

Bought in Prof Services.          +£   77k.                           -£  24k.

Education Consultancy.           +£   42k.                           -£  22k.


Both schools got New Headteachers in September and the Governors recruited a very expensive Executive Head to oversee BOTH schools - what happens when one closes?


North Yorkshire Council and the school Governors have not only refused to give information out but deliberately blocked requests for it even when freedom of information requests were put in - why?


The 2 public meetings at Whitby Pavilion weren't advertised by the organisers with only Whitby Network and the protest group giving the event publicity - why?


When I viewed the Executive Committee making its unanimous decision to go ahead with the proposal after what had been said, written and read out as were hundreds of pages of statements and questions not one defence of any accusations or indeed warning if not true, I realised your all in it together.


A letter read out was sent in by "A" Mr David Bradley apparently, a gentleman who knows more about Secondary Education than anyone at the meeting having been Head Teacher at Eskdale when it and indeed the original Caedmon were in the top 10% nationally - that's what healthy competition creates. He also experienced the pitfalls of running a split site school in Northallerton prior to retiring. How many people sat round the table have ever been involved in Education and do most always look disinterested when attending - were 3 of them playing with or using their laptops relevant to a very important meeting in my eyes.


In summary without a valid explanation as to why the proposal has to be what it is I will presume you all have something you have to protect.


4. Mrs Alison Hume

I would like to express support for the families with children with special needs and disabilities who have fought so hard to save Eskdale School from closure.  As a parent who has faced the challenges of finding the right schools for my son with complex disabilities my heart really goes out to those who had found their right school in Eskdale and now have to contemplate a future without it.


Nobody likes change and for children with SEND and mental health needs, and their families and carers, it can be completely overwhelming.  Should the Executive decide to adopt the Governors’ proposals today I would ask that targeted and individualised extra support is put in place for children with SEND and identified mental health needs as soon as possible to prepare for the transition.


I would also like to ask a question about the help available for families who will struggle to afford the cost of a new school uniform due to the very high cost of living.  At a meeting of the Scarborough and Whitby Area Constituency Committee on 24th March, my local councillor Cllr Neil Swannick proposed that the Local Authority allocate funding to put in place support measures, including financial support for such extra costs such as uniforms, to assist parents and students during the transition.  This response was approved.


I refer you to the minutes of the Executive Meeting of 18thApril, 2023 where the recommendations from the Area Constituency Committee were noted along with the observation that the Executive will be required to consider the recommendation in conjunction with these proposals at the appropriate time if the proposals are published and this returns for a decision to close the school on 20 June 2023.  That day has now arrived and therefore I would be grateful if the Executive might consider making a financial support package available to help families in the event of a decision to close Eskdale School and rebrand Caedmon College.


5. Su Crossland

My name is Su Crossland and I am co-chair of governors for the Whitby Secondary Partnership as

well as a parent of a child at Eskdale School and I spoke at the last meeting about the exciting

opportunity we feel this amalgamation could be.


Today I also want to acknowledge the fact that this has been a difficult and emotive process for

many people. I don’t think anyone will disagree with the fact that Eskdale has been a wonderful

experience for many students over the years and letting go of that is hard. But that doesn’t mean

that we can’t create something as good, if not better, for our students.


Despite accusations of impropriety, everything we have done as governors is always with the best

interests of the students first and foremost. We have nothing to gain from this process yet have

poured our hearts and souls into it to ensure the current and future students of Whitby get the best

secondary education possible. We fully believe this is the best option to achieve that and will

continue to do everything we can to this end.


Can I please say thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process for your input. This

can be an exciting opportunity for everyone involved and I hope that whatever the decision, we can

work together as a community to ensure we provide the best education and opportunities for our young people because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters


6. Miss Tallulah Jones

My name is Tallulah Jones, I'm in year 5 at West cliff Primary school. Your decision today doesn't have an effect on your life, BUT it does mine. The decision today map's out my future.


Me and my friends will be the first to try this NEW school, YET mum and her friends have asked for plans for things to show how this will work.  but you won't give them… WHY? This makes them sad and angry - they want what's best for us.  


I was scared to go to big school, but even though the governors were planning this they let me and my friends look round the schools and make decisions about our futures…. Why if they wanted to close Eskdale? I felt safe at Eskdale, I know that's the school for me, like every other child who has chosen it before. My big sisters went there, one’s at uni and one’s going into the police, it's not just bricks it's a feeling, it's the teachers, it's special.


I have decided if I can't go to Eskdale I won't go to Caedmon, I will travel 30 mins to another school, mum's not happy but she says she will do it so I'm happy.


Who is Education for? It’s for me, my friends, my little brother and all the children in Whitby now and in the future… we need a choice in schools as at one school we might be fish who can't climb trees.  Yet at the other we are embraced for the brilliant swimmers we are.


Every school like every child is different and the right match gets the best results - we want our right to choose.  Adults make mistakes like us children….  We get told off for covering them up … don't ruin my future to cover their mistakes.  Thank you.


Cllr Annabel Wilkinson thanked Tallulah Jones for coming to the meeting and for sharing her thoughts and ideas with the Executive.  She also acknowledged how difficult it was to have changes being talked about at the same time as when Miss Jones was thinking about choosing a new school. 


She was pleased to note the positive things Miss Jones said about Eskdale School and confirmed that the Governors of both schools were proud of their pupils and staff.   She confirmed that some parts of the planning for the new school had needed to wait until a final decision was made and suggested that if the Executive decided to approve the new school, senior staff at both schools would make sure that pupils and parents knew what was going on next year, and beyond.


She drew attention to the very important focus on bringing together all the good things that were already happening at Eskdale and Caedmon into one new school. She suggested the new school would have many of the same staff and children –and many of the positive feelings that Miss Jones had talked about.


Cllr Wilkinson recognised that:

·          Everyone wanted schools to be welcoming so that young people could feel happy and safe.

·          If you felt comfortable at school and had the best support, then you could achieve more.

·          Everybody was different, and school staff tried their best to make sure they supported everyone.

·          Education was for young people

·          Everyone at the meeting wanted education in Whitby to be the best that it could be


Finally, she stated her hope that whatever decision was made, Miss Jones would continue to be as interested in her education and the decisions that affected it.


In response to the other five public submissions, Stuart Carlton – Corporate Director Children & Young People’s Service drew attention to the Executive report dated 18 April 2023 and the report for this meeting and noted:


·          The report to the Executive on 18 April 2023 clearly set out the other options that had been considered and the reasons that the proposal had been brought forward for consultation.


·          Through the extensive consultation process conducted in February and March 2023, the statutory representation period in May, and the public statements delivered at the meeting, no viable alternative option had been identified that would address the pupil numbers, finances and provide a sustainable model to deliver the best education to the young people of Whitby.


·          The Council had complied with the legislation for publishing the statutory proposals and with regard to consultations being carried out. It had adhered to the government’s consultation principles including a full pre-publication consultation process. The public meetings were advertised and well attended, and the number of responses submitted indicated the considerable level of engagement with the consultation.


·          The consultation set out the projected finances for both schools and the proposed amalgamated school. As part of the implementation of the proposal, the Council would work with school leadership to identify the amalgamated school’s capital priorities.


·          The Whitby Secondary Partnership shared several staff and other resources across both schools within the federation and consequently there was a need for a transfer of funding between the two school budgets in respect of these shared resources. The Council considered that the federation has used their public finances appropriately.


·          The sixth form provision in Whitby was emotive and the consultation had shown there were those for and against retaining the provision. Governors had stated their vision for secondary education in Whitby was the continuation of education for 16–18-year-olds as part of an amalgamated school.


·          Closing the sixth form would have no impact on the Eskdale School budget and would therefore do nothing to address its significant projected deficit.


·          By introducing the proposed change from September 2024, there would be a year for school staff to plan and prepare for implementation. The wellbeing of pupils and the support made available for all pupils would be a key priority.   Part of the proposal was for a larger resource for pupils to access, with dedicated members of staff responsible for pupil welfare, inclusion, and targeted and specialist support in the newly amalgamated school. However, it is recognised that should a decision be taken to amalgamate the schools, there was much work for school leaders to do to ensure the transition process for existing students was comprehensive and clear for parents and children.


·          As part of the planning for the proposal and through the Equalities Impact Assessment it was acknowledged that the period of transition would require support for all pupils but particularly those with Special Educational Needs.


·          Governors and leaders wanted to establish a pupil-centred inclusive school, where pupils were individuals and part of a school community. They had further identified that the proposal for one amalgamated school would see the work of the SEND Teams, Alternative Provision and the Targeted Mainstream Provision come together as part of an Inclusion Hub, which would provide intervention and ongoing support for all pupils but specifically those identified with more personalised needs.


·          The federated governing board had prioritised inclusion as part of their transition planning, building on the joint Caedmon and Eskdale Special Educational Needs Coordinator meetings. For every child with an Education, Health and Care Plan naming either of the two schools, the amalgamation would be considered at the point of their annual review. Any queries or concerns could be discussed either with the School Special Educational Needs Coordinator, North Yorkshire Special Educational Needs Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), or with the Council’s SEND and Inclusion services if required.


·          At the Scarborough & Whitby Area Committee, 24 March 2023. the committee had resolved that: “If the statutory organisation proposals for amalgamation of Caedmon College & Eskdale School & technical closure of Eskdale school consultation results in amalgamation, the Scarborough & Whitby Area Constituency Committee recommends to the Executive that the Local Authority will allocate funding to put in place support measures, including financial support for such extra costs as uniforms, to assist parents and students during the transition.”  As part of their planning for the potential implementation of that proposal, school leaders and governors had considered the uniform requirements for a newly amalgamated school. If the proposal was approved the school leadership would finalise their plans and consider what support the school would be able to offer to implement their proposed changes to uniform.  The costs of any proposal would be considered as part of the ongoing dialogue regarding the financial position of the federation, and the local authority will review any proposal in line with the Notices of Financial Concern, the North Yorkshire Scheme for Financing Schools and de-delegated funding arrangements. School leaders and governors were clear that the financial cost of the implementation to parents must be minimised in line with the department for education’s statutory guidance on the cost of school uniforms.


In regard to Ofsted, Stuart Carlton confirmedCaedmon College Whitby had been contacted by Ofsted in reference to a section 5 inspection.  The school had been preparing for the inspection for over a year and had been working on the actions outlined in the monitoring visit that took place in 2022. However school leaders, upon receiving notification call and discussing the timing of the inspection with governors and the local authority, submitted a request for deferral to the Ofsted Lead Inspector. This request was subsequently accepted, and the Ofsted’s regional director decided to defer the inspection.


Finally, on behalf of the Chair of governors Stuart Carltonpaid tribute to the governors of the Whitby Secondary Partnership, who have worked incredibly hard to develop the proposal. He recognised that schools relied on governors to work voluntarily to ensure schools were led and managed effectively and that children achieved well, were safe and that money was well spent.  He thanked the governors of the Whitby Secondary Partnership for their determination and commitment during the consultation process, and also all governors across North Yorkshire schools and academies that continued to give their own time to support the county’s children and schools.


The public participants were all given the opportunity to ask a supplementary question, and in response to those questions the following was confirmed:

·          The Ofsted inspection had come at a difficult time for the school given the ongoing public consultation and that was seen by Ofsted’s regional director as a legitimate reason to defer the inspection.

·          The capital needs of the school moving forward would be considered, in line with the Authority’s capital requirement and work programme for the whole school estate across the county.

·          The school’s position alongside a busy road was nothing new.  Pupil numbers had been higher in the past therefore it was not now a deciding factor.

·          The previous investment in to the sixth form was fully disclosed at the time and was a decision of the Opportunity Area Board and the Authority.  Stuart Carlton, as a statutory officer of the Council confirmed he was responsible for education, and therefore his involvement in that previous decision was correct and proper.

·          The dates of the public meetings were included in the consultation document circulated in February 2023.  It was shared with parents, Whitby primary schools (to share with parents) and all identified stakeholders.  The numbers attending the meetings showed the level of interest and confirmed the advertisement had worked.

·          The governors decided very early on to give an extra year to any transitional arrangement, with the purpose of slowing the process down and providing the necessary support in a measured way over a longer period. The school would only start working on what that support would look like once a decision on the proposed amalgamation had been taken. The transitional work for those pupils with SEND would start as early as possible.

·          The Authority would work with the school to provide financial support to ensure the impact on parents was minimal.

·          The intention behind the proposal was to provide a one site school that was big enough to provide  a depth of curriculum and quality of education that all Whitby children deserved.


Councillor Gareth Dadd noted it was always going to be a difficult decision and sympathised with those living in the Whitby community who were fearful of change, recognising that not everybody liked change.


Councillor Janet Sanderson noted the public contributions.  She acknowledged that for those pupils with SEND, change was always difficult, but she also recognised that the proposal brought with it opportunities for the future that might otherwise not materialise for those children with mainstream targeted needs. 


Having noted the report and all of the contributions at the meeting, the Executive all voted in favour of the recommendations in the report, and it was


Resolved – That:


i.       the issues listed in section 9 of the report had been satisfied and there could be a determination of the proposals.


ii.      Eskdale School and Caedmon College Whitby be amalgamated through:

·            Ceasing to maintain Eskdale School from 31 August 2024.

·            Increasing the published admission number of Caedmon College Whitby to 240, from 1 September 2024.

Supporting documents: