Silver Bullet to the Rescue!
March and April 2016 proved a volatile period for our long-standing client, Ponteland Middle School, who were earmarked with potential closure within a two tier consultation undertaken by Northumberland County Council.
The decision, presented as a fait accompli to Headteacher, Dr Caroline Pryer, came completely out of the blue on March 7 at a meeting supposedly to talk about the Ponteland Partnership, and went against most people’s logic as here was a school judged Outstanding in consecutive inspections of 2008 & 2013 which was not only full with a substantial waiting list for 2016 entry, but had also just successfully funded and developed a brand new £447,000 artificial all weather sports pitch, only opened in April 2015 by Alan Shearer.
Whether it was political dogma, educational preference for two tier over the existing three tier system, economics or personal reasons that drove this seemingly crazy decision may never be fully known, but it did present Dr Pryer with a challenge, to put it mildly.
Moving effortlessly into overdrive, the Headteacher quickly informed the Governors and ourselves to plan a very fast campaign to canvas support from the parents and local community. Car window stickers, leaflets, exterior banners and the implementation of a pro-active Public Relations strategy quickly informed everyone and the campaign took on a life of its own. An additional briefing on Good Friday morning resulted in the production and mass distribution of 12,000 consultation forms with more banners distributed throughout not only Ponteland but also their surrounding villages.
The community’s preference for the existing three tier system was quickly seen as the swell from parents formed the campaign group ‘Parents of Ponteland School’; and the decision on April 22 to grant the school Academy status, has made the consultation and NCC’s resulting decision largely irrelevant as the Middle School is now protected and will remain open whatever the consultation outcome; it is hoped that the Council listen to the community and stay with a three tier system.
Either way, it’s congratulations to Dr Pryer and Ponteland Middle School and we’re glad to have played our small part in your successful campaign.