THE public outcry which swept west Northumberland early last year in response to dramatic proposals to reform education across the area are still fresh in the memory of many local people.

The strength of feeling against plans outlined by Northumberland County Council which left countless rural schools under threat of closure, and which many felt could see the introduction of a two-tier education system by the back door, was almost tangible at the time.

Public demonstrations and marches on County Hall saw the plans largely abandoned as the council vowed to have listened and responded to the show of parent power.

So it is not surprising that many have given the plans for a new state-of-the-art high school and middle school for Hexham – both on the same site – a guarded welcome.

For, having the two schools co-located on the same site off Whetstone Bridge Road, could be considered by some as the first step towards the two-tier system for the Hexham Partnership of Schools which was so vehemently opposed last year.

Road safety will also no doubt have to feature heavily in the discussions about how the plan is delivered, with hundreds of extra pupils from the middle school expected to be travelling to the high school site from September 2021.

Reports of accidents and near misses involving pedestrians over the years have been a cause of great concern within the community.

But, amid the cautious public questioning which will naturally follow such a proposal, what must not be overlooked is the estimated £36m which is set to be invested in education in Hexham.

For as long as most of us can remember, key buildings at the high school and middle school have been in desperate need of updating, and this plan represents an investment in our future generations.