TWO first schools could come under the leadership of the same headteacher, as schools try to work more closely together after being placed under threat earlier this year.

The Diocese of Newcastle said that the headteacher of Riding Mill’s Broomhaugh C of E First School, Jen Stephenson, is due to retire.

It is proposing that Corbridge C of E First School’s headteacher, Jennifer Ainsley, will take on a shared leadership role for both schools.

The proposal comes following a consultation exercise undertaken by Northumberland County Council earlier this year, where 16 schools in west Northumberland fell under threat of closure – including five church schools.

Although all five church schools survived, the council encouraged all schools to consider new ways of working more closely together.

The diocese said working together was not a new concept for it to consider, as in 2014, the Church of England published a report into the future of education for its small rural schools. The report highlighted the increasingly beneficial role of shared leadership as a strategy for long-term success.

Ms Ainsley was said to be “extremely enthusiastic” about the possibility of taking on a shared leadership role, but despite having the same headteacher there would also be a focus on retaining each school’s distinctive nature.

Both schools have been praised by Ofsted, with Broomhaugh First School having an outstanding rating from Ofsted and Corbridge First School being rated good at its most recent inspection.

Paul Rickeard, director of education for the Diocese of Newcastle said: “We believe such an approach could make both schools stronger with greater resources to maintain the high educational standards that our children and their parents have come to expect.

“Shared leadership for a school is not new and has already been tried and tested in many other areas.

“We believe this is a model that could become much more widespread, particularly among smaller schools over the coming years.”

The diocese said it is still exploring ideas and is working with the governing bodies of both schools. It has promised to keep parents fully informed about the proposal.

“The council consultation made it clear that standing still is not an option and that for our schools to survive, no matter how good they are,” added Mr Rickeard.

“Working together is crucial if we are to protect the education of our children in west Northumberland for years to come.”