Education in SoT will be completely restructured under the government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.
It’s hoped around £200 million will be spent rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school and special school in the city.
In March 2007, the government stepped in and appointed a private company – Serco – to run the council’s Children’s Services, following a series of critical reports by Ofsted and the Audit Commission.
But how the money is spent will be determined by the City Council.
The BSF scheme contains a number of plans for rebuilding or refurbishing sites - the most controversial option being to close all of the existing schools and rebuild new ones.
Thousands of parents and community members attended consultation meetings during November and December 2007, many of them expressing concern about the plans.
The consultation period ends in January 2008, with a decision expected soon after.
To join the debate, use the messageboard...
To see full proposals - see City Council's website...
Listen to interviews with parents and with council …
Hear the 15-minute debate which was on Radio Stoke
Links to all these are in the top right-hand column of this page
Latest News (Late Dec 2007)
An interim review of the feedback means the city is unlikely to proceed with two of the possible options in the BSF document.
· The option of closing ALL schools is likely to disappear. Instead, schools may now be considered on a bespoke basis.
· Special schools are likely to be 'decoupled' from the BSF exercise and considered separately at a later date.
BBC Radio Stoke's Pete Morgan interviewed Mark Meredith on 19th December - you can hear the interview by clicking on the audio link in the top right hand corner of this page (titled 'Hear: Meredith - schools on merit')
Around 5,000 people have already taken part in the consultation over the future of secondary and special education in Stoke-on-Trent.
City council officials are now analysing written feedback sent in after more than 80 meetings to brief school staff, parents, governors and young people on the challenge to transform the city's high schools in a £200 million investment programme.
To encourage more people to take part, 45,000 special booklets have been mailed out and 120,000 summary newsletters are being delivered to homes and businesses throughout the city.
In the New Year the team behind the consultation will sit down with the Head and Governors of each school to discuss its future and will draw up a revised report to be considered by the Elected Mayor, the Chief Executive and the City Council.
The original announcement (Nov 2007)
Stoke on Trent City Council said it wanted to start again in Education. It says it wants to replace all of the existing high schools with modern, state-of-the-art premises housing facilities for the 21st century.
The Council says there are several reasons for reorganising Stoke on Trent’s schools:
- Declining pupil numbers, falling from 14,558 in 2002 to 13,671 in 2007. The Council believes this figure will reach 11,825 in 2014.
- The Council believes this makes existing schools too large and uneconomical.
- In turn, the Council states that some of the surrounding sites are too small, lacking adequate sport and play facilities.
- Many of the buildings, built in the 1930s and 1950s are in poor condition and have reached the end of their useful life, according to the City Council.
There are currently 17 secondary schools in Stoke on Trent. These include 3 Catholic aided schools, 1 Church of England aided school and 1 Foundation school. There are also 5 special schools across the city.
Options for the future
Under the BSF proposals there are four main options.
These are the alternatives that have been put to public consultation with children, parents, teacher, governors and community groups:
1. To close all 17 high schools and 5 special schools, replacing them with 12 new high schools and 4 new special schools, which may or may not be built on present sites. This is the City Council’s favoured option.
2. To close 9 secondary schools where status will change (e.g. ones which will merge with another school or become an academy school).
3. To close all schools and replace with new, with the exception of the three Catholic Schools.
4. To close all schools and replace with new, with the exception of St Joseph's Catholic College in Trent Vale, which is the area's one remaining selective school.
Details of these options are contained in a booklet, published on 19th November. The full proposals can be viewed at www.stoke.gov.uk/bsf (see link in the top right-hand corner of this page).
Hope and controversy
Stoke on Trent's Elected Mayor, Mark Meredith, says: "Never before has one city had the chance to re-make its secondary education system all at once like this. We must not let it slip."
On its website, the City Council says “We recognise that closing or opening schools is not always popular. Understandably, people become attached to what they know.”
Heated discussions have taken place at the public consultation meetings.
Parents with children at special schools have expressed particular concern that proposals for new special schools to share sites with mainstream schools might expose their children to bullying.
Ian McLaughlan, the City Councillor with responsibility for education says: "I hope that ... when the final decision is made, it is a shared vision we can all work towards."
Join the debate
You can hear the views of head-teacher Roisin Maguire of St Joseph's School, Trent Vale, as well of some pupils at St Joseph's, by watching our video reports. You can also hear audio from Stoke on Trent's Elected Mayor Mark Meredith and the Councillor responsible for education, Ian McLaughlin (click on the links in the top right-hand corner of this page).
And what if you then want to have YOUR say?
Well, you can, by joining in the discussion on the BBC messageboards. See the link to our messageboard in the top right-hand corner of this page.
If you would like to contact Stoke on Trent City Council, you can write to Ged Rowney, Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Floor 2, Civic Centre, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1RU before 11 January 2008. Alternatively, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org