Access to first class educational facilities is the aspiration of every community and is essential to support future development in the town.
Some of the issues facing education are beyond the scope of the plan. What is in scope are the implications of choices made on the key matters of educational change in the town, on the future use of vacated school sites and on the dual use of new school and sports facilities at Greensfield.
The education objective of the plan is:
To ensure that development taking place in the town is supported by sufficient quantity of school places and a high quality of education provision.
Ensuring quality in education provision to support future development.
The quality of schools provision is a key consideration, not just for residents, but also for families considering a move and employers looking to establish or relocate a business. If Alnwick’s population is to grow then schools must have the capacity to accept increased numbers and meet rising parental expectations.
All Alnwick schools, other than the recently refurbished St Paul’s, suffer from serious problems linked to dilapidation of buildings, which are not fit for purpose and/or are in unsuitable locations creating problems of traffic congestion etc. The Duchess’s Community High School, located on 2 separate sites, is to be replaced by a new school in recognition of its extreme unsuitability and dilapidation. It has embarked on a process of converting to academy status along with its federated schools.
It is intended that the new school will be sited on land at Greensfield, west of the Alnwick Cricket Club. Although funding appears to be sufficient for only a high school replacement, there have been calls for a single all age learning facility on this site, comprising at least the additional middle school components.
This would have the advantage of concentrating education provision on the southern edge of town where traffic can be more easily accommodated but the down side of concentrating everything there is that for pupils on the north of the town it makes travelling to school by sustainable means difficult. The plan needs to come to a view on whether the new site should be an all age education campus or not.
The future of school site
Northumberland County Council owns the main High School site and the Lindisfarne Middle School site. These two sites together with the land at the Dukes School, owned by Northumberland Estates and the Bailiffgate Annexe buildings, present significant opportunities for re-use and redevelopment to the benefit of the town.
The sites could be developed for a variety of uses. The housing section of the plan suggests some of the school sites being used for housing but other uses including community services, business, leisure developments etc are all possibilities. However the school sites are currently composed of buildings and a substantial element of greenspace. Given the lack of publically accessible greenspace in the town a substantial part of these sites should be retained as public open space.
Dual use of facilities
Plans for providing a mixed use outdoor sports facility for Alnwick sporting clubs are being developed very close to the new school site. At the same time the existing schools currently provide venues for various community activities after school.
The Greensfield sports complex will initially provide facilities for football, tennis and hockey. It makes sense to capitalise on this proximity by allowing school students to use the facilities rather than duplicating provision and thereby share the burden of maintenance between community and school. Similarly, internal space at the new school should be offered to the community outside of school hours. The Neighbourhood Plan needs to encourage this dual use.
Other educational facilities
Education needs of the community don’t start and end with education for the 5-18 age group. Nurseries and after-school care for younger children, youth clubs and facilities, special needs education facilities and adult education services are all present in the town.
The future of all these education-related facilities are vital in supporting development in Alnwick and Denwick and facilitating life-long learning and the plan should have a role to play in promoting their retention.
Seem to be mainly linked to potential move of the High School (+ possibly other ACSF schools) on to a new site. It is important to note that things could move extremely quickly if current capital bid succeeds:
- Loss of trade from town centre (Mon-Fri) if High School moved. Many Sixth Formers (350+) use the shops during the week
- Students (how many?) who use public transport will need new routes (no longer linked to bus stn)
- At least one site (High School main site) will return to NCC - future development?
- If all schools in the ACSF move – future development of the old sites
- Bailiffgate site and Dukes Middle site – land / buildings belong to Northumberland Estates – what plans to do they have?
- Ownership of present school’s estate – a real issue for ACSF in particular – generates complexity re discussions on new build and academy conversion.
- Public transport network would need to be reorganised to cater for new build
- Present road capacity near new build – is it adequate?
- Capacity of present and future school’s estate in light of population/housing change not only in Alnwick itself but surrounding rural areas as far out as Wooler, Belford and Seahouses.
- Condition of present school’s estate – especially an issue if present capital bid is not successful.
- Landscape of built environment surrounding any new build – lighting / energy efficiency / car parking / sustainability / dual use sport etc.
Areas of potential overlap with other topic areas
- Impact on trade and services in town centre – Retail
- Link to development of Alnwick Sporting Club Playing Fields – Sport and Recreation
- Any future decisions on location of Adult Education / town library – Community Facilities
- Future development of south side of town into a sporting, social and economic hub for all ages - Community Facilities, Transport
- Future of Dukes Middle School – Heritage and Culture (as Listed Building)
Factors constraining options
- Ownership of existing school estate
- Timing –delivery of potential new school