Change of fortune at Haydon Bridge High School
HAYDON Bridge High School has endured the most difficult two years in its illustrious history.
Since being placed in special measures by Ofsted in February 2015, two separate governing bodies at the school have been sacked, its long-established boarding wing at Ridley Hall has closed, and a proposed conversion to academy status has been one of the most protracted on record.
What’s more? The school was threatened with closure as recently as last December, before Northumberland County Council’s plan for a merger with Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School was thrown out by the Government.
But significant developments over the past two months appear to have turned the tables at the troubled school.
A new interim executive board (IEB) was installed by the Department for Education in February, tasked with speeding up the academy conversion process.
And last week, a new principal was appointed on a permanent basis by the Bright Tribe trust, which is finally set to be confirmed as the school’s main sponsor this summer.
Darren Glover will head a new-look management team, alongside deputy principal Helen McCormick and assistant principal Helen Jackson, with support from regional executive principal Dr Judith Greene.
Mr Glover has already spoken about the “huge potential” at Haydon Bridge High, and has vowed to drive up educational attainment, and help every student realise their potential.
But does this mean that everything in the garden is suddenly rosy at Haydon Bridge High School?
When Bright Tribe first emerged as a leading condender to take over at Haydon Bridge, questions were asked about whether a relatively new organisation, based in Cheshire, was the right fit.
Then last November, Bright Tribe’s Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria was placed in special measures following a damning inspection by Ofsted.
But Bright Tribe, which runs academies in Sussex, Essex and Greater Manchester, insists it has a “stong track record in school improvement.”
And local county councillor Alan Sharp believes Bright Tribe must be given a fair chance to turn around the school’s fortunes.
He said: “Haydon Bridge High is going through a change which I hope is very much for the better.
“I did not support the county council’s initiative to close the school. It serves the educational needs of young people not only in Haydon Bridge, but across a vast rural area.
“It is also an integral part of village life, providing jobs and supporting the local economy.”
So what is the vision for the future at Haydon Bridge High with Mr Glover and Bright Tribe at the helm?
Ruth Dolan, chairman of the school’s new IEB, wrote a very encouraging letter to parents last week.
She said: “The IEB is here to provide stability and expert capacity, and to help speed up the pace at which the school converts to academy status.
“The IEB is a team of specially selected, experienced education professionals, who are dedicated to ensuring that Haydon Bridge High School will have a bright future.”
In the letter, Mrs Dolan admitted that the school has “struggled with deficit budgets for some time”, but stressed work was ongoing to resolve those issues.
She added: “We are confident that the school will be a viable, sustainable hub for the community, and the good news is that the IEB is already finding ways that, going forward, the school can operate within its means.
“We are clearly focused on taking Haydon Bridge out of special measures. Nothing will distract us from that mission.
“We are confident that we have already begun the journey to ensure Haydon Bridge High will become a good school, and that all of our pupils will receive and enjoy an excellent education moving forward.”
Mrs Dolan also acknowledged the disruption caused by the sudden closure of Ridley Hall in February.
She said the 24 long-distance pupils affected were now travelling via school transport, but teachers were providing additional support with planning, homework, and coaching.”
The IEB and the local authority have been at loggerheads over who was responsible for the closure of Ridley Hall.