Northern Education Trust

Outcomes Focused, Child Centred

NET Launches Consultation about Future of Thomas Hepburn Community Academy

9th Feb 2018

NET Launches Consultation about Future of Thomas Hepburn Community Academy

Northern Education Trust is carrying out a consultation process about the future of Thomas Hepburn Community Academy and is working closely with the Department for Education (DFE) and Gateshead Council throughout this process. The Trust shares Gateshead Council's commitment to ensure the education of students remains at the forefront of the decision-making process.

It must be stressed that no decisions have yet been made by either the Trust or the DFE. As an initial measure, the Northern Education Trust Board is entering into a four-week consultation period to investigate the feasibility of the closure of Thomas Hepburn Community Academy on 31 August 2019. The Trust is asking all interested parties to make representations during the consultation period which will run until 6 March 2018. All comments received will be seriously considered to inform an assessment of the situation prior to the DFE making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the proposals.

Student numbers at the academy have been declining in recent years and there are currently only 412 students on roll. It is projected this number will decline further in September 2018 with the potential number of students entering the academy as low as 40, making the number on roll at that point circa 350. The academy has a Pupil Admission Number of 150 so can house 750 students; meaning the academy would be at less than 50% occupancy. This makes the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum for the students extremely difficult and has significant financial implications.

It is proposed that the current Year 7, Year 8 and Year 10 remain at Thomas Hepburn for the academic year 2018/19 and move into Year 8, 9, and 11 respectively. Current Year 6 students who have indicated Thomas Hepburn as their first-choice secondary school will be offered places in other schools. In addition, current Year 9 students will be offered places in other schools in September 2018 to undertake their GCSE studies in Years 10 and 11.

The quality of the children's education is paramount, therefore Northern Education Trust, Gateshead Council and the receiving schools will work together to support the transition of students into new schools and will provide assistance to individual students and their families if required. In the event of the decision to close being made, relevant stakeholders will consider possible future educational uses for the school site that would be in the best interests of local children and young people. Any future use would have to be agreed with the DFE.

Commenting on the consultation, Northern Education Trust's chief executive, Rob Tarn, said:

"As an organisation committed to the wider education system, Northern Education Trust has taken the difficult decision to begin this consultation. Our children are special to us and deserve the highest quality education possible. Whilst we are confident that the rapidly rising standards at the school enhance our children's life-chances, current and projected student numbers bring particular challenges. A major challenge is the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum that responds to both children's interests and their post 16 aspirations. With only 340 students expected to be on-roll in September 2018 such a curriculum cannot be provided. We believe that by making use of our excellent relationships with Gateshead Council and secondary head teachers we can be proactive in securing broader opportunities whilst ensuring a smooth transition for children."

Colin Ferguson, chair of governors at Thomas Hepburn Community Academy, said:

"The academy council is confident that the academy is now making rapid improvements but as the student population declines it is a challenge to provide a broad and balanced curriculum to meet the needs of our students. The academy is determined that our children receive the very best educational provision and I believe the consultation will ensure that we do what is best for them, their families and the local community. By working closely with our sponsor, Northern Education Trust, the local authority and other key stakeholders, we will do our utmost to ensure that all parties are supported and listened to throughout the consultation process in order to ensure a well- informed decision is made, which is in the children's best interests."