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The King’s School merger will go ahead unchallenged — Labour should be celebrating

6 August 2013

11:57 AM

6 August 2013

11:57 AM

The battle for The King’s School is over, and Labour has lost. As reported in today’s Newcastle Chronicle, North Tyneside Council met yesterday and voted against pursuing a judicial review of the new Kings Priory Academy in Tynemouth. After threatening to halt the merger of the independent King’s School and state Priory Primary School since May, the council has accepted that it is on the wrong side of parents and the local community.

The council is not celebrating the arrival of a new state school. The Labour mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, said of the decision:

‘I have been in education for years and I can’t believe how this process has taken place. I have never known two governing bodies get together and plan secretly’


Redfearn’s remarks demonstrate her lack of understanding of Michael Gove’s academy programme. Parents and governing bodies are supposed to get together and plan new schools, away from the tentacles of the local authority . The battle to open Kings Priory is a victory not just for Gove and Andrew Adonis — both of whom supported the merger from the outset — but also for the parents and local community in Tynemouth. As I reported last month, over 80 per cent of parents at both schools wanted the academy. It is a shame that it has taken the council several months to drop its political motivated opposition.

And the losers? North Tyneside Council are obviously embarrassed, having fought such a public battle against the merger. In particular Ian Grayson, the councillor responsible for education, who was investigated by the BBC for his connections to the teaching unions, will be disappointed. Labour’s Stephen Twigg, who lined to support or oppose the King’s merger, is also on the list.

The battle in Tynemouth is emblematic of the fight for Britain’s education system. No matter how much local authorities wish to retain control of education, the march of free schools and academies continues. As the Education Secretary wrote in the Guardian recently, this government’s reforms are based on ‘evidence, not ideology’ — and he urged Ed Miliband’s Labour party to accept that. After all, the Labour party is responsible for Gove’s revolution, having launched the academies programme under Tony Blair. Labour should be celebrating this new academy; but, instead, the Conservatives are leading the fight for better education.

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Show comments
  • Old Kings Boy

    Interesting article re Dr Pia resigning from the Governing body of Monkseaton Middle School in protest of NTC not pressing for a judicial review of Kings and Priory. Interesting in the fact that no comments or shares have been made on that on-line article. Why? O yes it’s because the internet trolls can’t have a pop at the folks of Tynemouth. However when there is a more direct article on Kings and Priory the trolls move up another gear. So when “lastofthecheesemongers” whines in a recent post that the Kings and Priory parents shouted people down – of course we did – otherwise we let trolls win. Over 1200 of us signed the online petition supporting the merger, less than 200 against and some of those thought it was concerning some building in Los Angeles.
    Finally NTC says this was not about politics however Councillor Day (Labour Tynemouth) actually voted against the majority wish of her own constituents and followed the NTC directive. I would say Party line but it was not – Andrew Adonis actually backs this merger. I rest my case.

    • Bonhoeffer

      I would have thought Dr Pia should have been raising questions about the performance of Monkseaston High school , which by geographical location , i’d estimate that the majority of his pupils would attend , rather than resigning.

      It’s intersting to note that both his Middle school and Monkseaton High school have had considerable capital investment ( at least one if not both have been rebuilt in last 5 -7 years) , is Mr Grayson councillor for Monkseaton South,….. Ah well cannt have leafy Tynemouth schools obtaining council investment can we .

      Come the new term , is should be interesting the Mrs Pia , teaching assistant at Priory , but not doubt like Mr Grayson , despite being politically opposed to the acadamies ( it would apppear) , she’ll continue in her employment…

      To Quote tonights chip wrapper ( aka The Journal / Evening Chronicle)
      ” If ever there was a time to stand up for what is right, this was it”
      We DID, approx 1200 did and signed the petition backing the school..
      NTC instead of griping , they should start a programme to raise current standards in high schools like Marden and Monkseaton who are falling behind others in the Borough

      • Macca5

        In what way is Marden falling behind?

        • Bonhoeffer

          IMHO , Marden is falling behind others in the Borough , as regarding exam results.
          Historically it was the best performing of the State High Schools , currently , it is regarded by OFSTED as satisfactory , whilst John Spence ( aka Preston High School) and St Thomas Moore ( aka St Anslems) as Outstanding
          Thats how I base my arguement that Marden is falling behind…..
          It used to be the top performning school , and now it is not…
          St Anslems was pretty poor in my day…
          We’ll see how the New Academy performs…
          I predict NTC will in time shut both Marden and Monkhouse to build houses on 🙂
          Wonder if Comrade Grayson will turn up at HIS Academy in September?
          Also … is there a formal complain against Director ( Dictator) of Education Jilly Alexander …. no doubt she’ll retire early with stwess

          • Macca5

            I was under the impression that Marden has performed best (5 a-c grades inc English and Maths) in GSCEs this year?

          • lastofthecheesemongers

            Marden GCSE A*-C results for 2013 (including Maths and English) are 80%. This is best score for any state school in NT and makes it one of the best performing in the North East. Their scores have improved consistently under the new head Jonathan Morris. I’ve no doubt that the next Ofsted report will result in a much better rating.
            Why would NTC close its best performing GCSE school and to boot build more houses (and thus increase the number of pupils in the locality)?

    • lastofthecheesemongers

      IMHO, an online petition is not a great indicator of public opinion. In addition NTC have to have the education of *all* children in North Tyneside, not just those in “Tynemouth Village”.
      On the issue of the vote, I think you’ll find that at least one Tory councillor in Tynemouth ward didn’t even bother to vote.
      Also, I live in Cullercoats ward and my local councillors (all Tory) chose not to support their local schools (Cullercoats, Monkhouse and Marden) but rather to vote in favour for the King’s proposal once Linda Arkley (Tory) lost the mayoral office. Shirley Mortimer is even a governor of Monkhouse. Perhaps she should consider resigning her role as governor given that she can’t be arsed to support her own school.
      Interesting to see the results at the next council election.

  • Old Kings Boy

    I really hope that the troll called “lastofthecheesemongers” is the very last… you have obviously listened to far too much gossip as you have no idea what you are talking about. As an ex-pupil of Kings I can tell you we had some good teachers but we also had pretty much run of the mill too and therefore now Mr Dawes has brought in his team that will pretty much inspire rather than play safe. Go and have your lunch now in your subsidised Council cafe and then go annoy someone else with your hairdresser type tittle-tattle.

    • lastofthecheesemongers

      “Subsidised Council café” – what on earth are you talking about, Tory Boy?

  • HookesLaw

    Tynemouth is labour with a 5,730 majority.
    If the 80% of parents want this school and want to keep it – just who should they vote for at the next general election?
    And if you tell me UKIP, I’ll split my sides.

  • lastofthecheesemongers

    “government’s reforms are based on ‘evidence, not ideology”
    What evidence Sebastian? Perhaps you could elaborate?

  • Bonhoeffer

    This merger may not have happened
    if the council had invested in Priory , one of its better performing schools ,

    There has been portacabins on
    site at Priory for 20+ years, the electric system cannot take new hand driers ,
    and the buckets come out when it rains as the roof leaks

    Once the merger was made public ,
    the council withdrew any funds for capital investment ( approx £600k I
    think)… is that fair?

    Only recently we’ve seen a notice
    that NTC will be spending £6 million on new school buildings in Longbenton….

    I do not doubt their schools
    would have needed refurbishment , but surely the council should be open and
    fair with regards to its refurbishment plans , and not rebuilding in the labour

    The merger will bring together
    two good schools , the standards at priory may actually surprise Kings parents
    , we may have our kids in a crumbling building , but the teaching staff lead by
    Ms. Melbourne are doing an excellent job

    NTC should now put its put’s its
    efforts into raising the standards at the two schools they claim to be
    immediately under threat.

    Monkseaton High , and most
    notably Marden High , a school rated as satisfactory by OFSTED…
    Satisfactory….. Ms. Bridges ( Head circa 1970-1990) should be kicking down
    the Heads door for these shoddy results .

    Satisfactory is not acceptable ,
    not with the socio economic demographics of Mardens intake

    I’ll be interested if Norma
    Redfearn will be withdrawing her grandchildren from the academy…

    It was amusing to see Mr Grayson under the spot light , conflict of interests possibly… NUT official ( a Union opposed to Acadamies) yet he teaches at kenton Academy in Newcastle .. hmmmm intersting that one Ian… I look forward to your resignation if you are so opposed to Acadamies , why work in one

    As to Jill Alexander … simply watch this space…. I know she pondered what dress to wear in The High Court…. maybe’s she can wear that for her disciplinary meeting after the council received a 4 page letter of complaint about her conduct… so we hear.

    • lastofthecheesemongers

      I wouldn’t be so cocky about the success of King’s Priory if I were you.
      Right wing educational traditionalists may be interested to know that I’ve been informed by my King’s spies that in Key Stage 3 (Year 7 and 8), the new school will teach an airy-fairy cross-curriculum programme of lessons rather than the traditional approach of separate subjects streamed into ability groups favoured by neighbouring schools such as Marden.
      In addition, the new Head, Mr.Dawes, has no experience in the role, previously being employed at the ESF school Bede Academy in Blyth (ESF schools have previously been dogged by stories of teaching creationism as fact in science lessons). By all accounts, the teaching staff think he’s a bit of a drip and ill-equipped to perform the role.
      A number of teachers at the independent school have left and the staffing for the new school year is disorganised and chaotic with the school desperately trying to make last minute appointments (when all the best teachers and NQTs have already been snapped up). The teaching staff are disgruntled, particularly from the independent school, who’ve seen their terms and conditions slashed. Hardly the sort of environment I’d send my kids into.
      Regarding the Capital Investment programme, I suggest you take a look at the papers published by the LA in this subject area. They will show you that Priory Governors and it’s Headteacher Miss Melbourne not once queried or challenged the LA’s school’s capital investment programme prior to September 2012. Priory was actually in the second wave of investment after schools in the North West of the Borough and has benefitted from building improvements right up until the summer of 2012. It was due another £700K of investment including removal of the portakabins, but you can hardly blame the LA from withdrawing this investments when they were on the verge of losing the leasehold of the buildings and land to Woodard Academies Trust. It would be a bit like putting a new kitchen into your home the week before you sold it!

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Yes but at least parents now have a greater choice.

      • HookesLaw

        No ESF school has taught creationism as science.
        It has had perfectly acceptable reports from ofsted.
        creationists exist, I has a strange experience of meeting one in Scotland a few years back.

        You quote the phrase ‘dogged’ – that would be by ‘Tribune’ perhaps whose editor was sued for libel and paid damages to charity?
        the accusations (lies) come from a rag tag and bobtail of lefties.

      • Bonhoeffer

        I’ve voted labour all my life , aapart from one local election where I voted Liberal on a local issue.

        What irks the likes of myself ,( well educated professional , ex Marden Pupil ) is the constant lack of funding at the coast ,

        Priory has been underfunded for years ,and was facing further financial pressure , so basically the council and central Government forced it’s hand.

        With regard to Mr Dawes …

        I believe .. his cv reads…

        “Vice Principal, Academic, of Bede Academy, Blyth, which oversees the education of 1,700 pupils aged 3-18.”

        “A Cambridge graduate , qualified as a maths teacher at the London Institute of Education. Previous teaching posts include Assistant Headteacher at JFS School in Harrow, which in 2008 was acclaimed by The Times newspaper as England’s top performing ‘non-selective’ school.

        So he obviously has no experience…
        Your statment … By all accounts… os nothing more than tittle tattle
        we;ll see what happens with Jill Alexander and Ian Grayson…. Tghe latter , aemployed at an acadamy , somethink he seems to oppose … Tad hypocritical it seems , I wionder what Newcastle City Council think of his stance , I wonder how much time Ian has spent away from teaching , on Union work and Council work … surley it;s best for his pupils for him to conentrate on his day job
        NTC need to get their act together with regards to getting Marden and Monkseaton up to scratch…
        But on the councils track record… I’m sure they have a cunning plan…. close Marden… pit its pupils into Preston High / John Spence (oops showing my age) and Monkseaton High , and sell off Marden for houses …. They can sit next to those built on the Monk Stone Site…
        The council has shown no interest in The Borough of Tynemouth since 1974, all sporting facilities have been built in the Labour hinterland , they still do not have a clear plan for either the Spanish City Dome or Open Air pool , this has been dragging on for over a decade now …
        Realistically NTC cannot even grit the roads in winter or even empty the bins on time

        • lastofthecheesemongers

          Regarding the “underfunding” at Priory – well it actually receives over 1.2 million in budget making it the 11th best funded school out of 56 primary/first schools in NT.
          Incidentally, NTC don’t have a problem with Academies. They didn’t oppose the conversion of St.Thomas More (secondary) or Moor Edge (primary). The real problem was the imposition of an additional secondary school when the number of pupils are declining.
          As NTC having “no interest” in the Coast and all the leisure facilities being built in “Labour’s hinterlands”. Well 2 out 4 swimming pools are at the Coast – Tynemouth Pool received significant refurbishment and Waves at Whitley Bay was completely rebuilt. All this investment took place when the wards were solidly represented by Tory councillors. The newest pool (at Wallsend) is in a ward long controlled by the LibDems.
          In addition, NTC have built two brand new first schools (Coquet, Marine Park), rebuilt the Whitley Bay playhouse theatre, built brand new play facilities (including near Tynemouth Boating lake), built a skate park in the Panama Dip, completed refurbished Tyenmouth Front Street, renovated the Spanish City Dome and have actively supported schemes to revitalise the old outdoor pool. I would suggest that all this hardly means that they ignore the Coast! You should get out more if you think NTC is bad. In my experience of living in various places in the UK, it’s actually pretty good.

    • Bonhoeffer

      Oooh first casualty

      The Chair of Monkseaton Middle school has committed seppuku
      Shame as he’s got a brand newly rebuilt school ….. Wish Priory had been refurbed at tax payers ( ME ) expense
      Over to you Ian Grayson ….
      If you dislike Acadamies so much.. why work in one ?
      Grow a pair and resign 🙂
      I cannt really see it affecting Monkseaton Middle school ( too far away) , main ones under threat would be Cullercoats and Monkhouse, with the latter more threatened IMHO as it’s down to one form entery… they must rattle round there as we had 3 forms… granted that was circa 1970-1980 … trouble is… the estate has grown old and not as many kids on it…
      But they have a new senior management team led by Laura Baggot ( i believe) who’s got the bit well and truely under her teeth, and good luck to her

      • lastofthecheesemongers

        It’s Academy with an ‘e’, not an ‘a’. Sorry, but you’ve repeated this spelling mistake several times. Apologise for the pedantry!
        Why should Grayson resign from his job? He opposed the Academisation of Kenton, but ultimately the governors at the school overruled the opposition of teachers and parents (remember them?). Many of us work for people or companies we really can’t stand, but have to grit our teeth and get on with it to put bread on the table.
        You appear to be concerned about the use of local taxpayers’ money, but wholeheartedly support the Academy program which signs away millions of pounds of LA assets and land to organisations which have no democratic accountability whatsoever. Could you explain this?
        Incidentally, my child left Monkhouse shortly after Mrs.Baggott took over the reigns from Heather Westlake. Not impressed I’m afraid, she’s very draconian. Several of the teaching staff who left shortly afterwards seemed to have the same opinion.

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    At least in this case Labour surrendered. In the case of the ‘Socialist Republic of Brent’, they simply worked with the local Teacher’s Union and had the Headteacher & Deputy Headteacher arrested along with the Chair of Governors on trumped-up ‘financial irregularity’ charges (since thrown-out by the Courts). From the Union & Council’s point of view, at least it stopped the Academy being created. Question is, where was Gove’s support on that occasion, or was this another ‘Peter Cruddas’ example of Conservative Party solidarity?…

  • huktra

    Why cannot Redfearn see that it is the interests of the children that are paramount.
    Not narrow considerations of politicians.

  • paulus

    Ah well it is now done, but equality of opportunity must come in different forms. The children of bus drivers cannot compete with the children of doctors, solicitors and accountants,or Teachers. Now we must ensure the children of bus drivers are given an education and skills where they can earn a living and if they have it in them to take a different route to higher education.

  • fathomwest

    Do not concern yourselves. We can look forward to the next Labour Government ensuring the further decline in education by bringing all schools back under the care of local authorities (IF they are Labour). Those in Conservative or Lib Dem council area’s will find themselves with a governing body made up of Union officials.
    They will not take this smack in the face quietly.

    • Wessex Man

      What on earth makes you think that Conservative or Lib/Dem controlled councls care anymore about the education of our children than Labour. All they actually care about is being called Councillor this that or the other by people they consider to be below them, their very generous allowances and vanity projects!

      Education? well in private they just don’t care, their children are in private education!

      • alabenn

        Education? well in private they just don’t care, their children are in private education
        And if you had their allowances that’s where your kids would be also.

    • lastofthecheesemongers

      It’s a huge generalisation to say that all LAs do a bad job in delivering education. I actually live in North Tyneside and the local schools are very well regarded.
      Incidentally, SP’s spin that North Tyneside LA are some sort of hard left Labour council is extremely misleading. The LA (in the form of the elected Mayor) has actually been controlled for 7 out of the last 11 years by the Conservative Party. In addition, when there was a Labour Mayor (2005-2009), the Tories had a majority on the council.
      Recently, the LA and Mayoral office have swung strongly to Labour on the basis of hostile opinion to the Tory led national government.

      • huktra

        Do not be beguiled.
        At the heart of Labour there is a green eyed monster.