Clitheroe secondary school's all-age expansion 'could improve reading ability'
Future pupils of a Clitheroe secondary school that is set to be converted into a facility that admits children from the age of four could benefit from studying a curriculum that is shaped to guide them from reception right up to their GCSEs.
That was the assessment of education officials at Lancashire County Council as the authority’s cabinet approved publication of a “statutory notice” of its plans for Ribblesdale High School.
It is the penultimate stage of the process to expand the age range of the Queens Road school, which was subject to an informal public consultation over the summer.
Amongst the concerns raised in response to the proposal to create a so-called “all-through” facility for pupils aged four to 16 were fears that an established secondary school was “not best placed” to start providing primary places.
However, papers presented to cabinet members stated that the development of a comprehensive curriculum over a child’s school career could provide “benefits to both the primary and secondary phase, particularly with reading development over the 12 years”.
Education bosses also moved to reassure respondents concerned with “the assumption that a high-quality secondary education provider could create high-quality primary education”, stressing that the school’s governing body would seek to install a head of the primary provision “who will be a key person in ensuring the right people, with appropriate expertise and knowledge of the primary curriculum and early years, are appointed”.
Members were also told that the school would be “guided, supported and challenged by Lancashire County Council school improvement officers…in order for school leaders to have the required capacity for the development of the primary phase and for maintaining the current provision in the secondary phase”.
It was confirmed that primary-aged pupils would automatically have “priority” for a secondary school place at Ribblesdale under the plans, as they would already be on the school roll. However, the meeting heard that the recent addition of 30 secondary places would go some way towards offsetting any resultant pressure on space in the 11-16 age range.
A final decision on the proposal – which will see the school eventually provide 210 primary places at a site on the under-construction Higher Standen Farm housing development off Pendle Road – will be taken in December.
A plot on the 1,040-home estate is already reserved for the purpose and adjoins the existing secondary school. Thirty reception pupils would be admitted each year, beginning in September 2023 – although the level of housing development planned for Clitheroe means that a further form of entry could be needed in the future.
An earlier plan to create an entirely new school on the same site – to generate the places that will be required as a result of the development – has been dropped. However, housebuilder Taylor Wimpey will still transfer the necessary land and make a contribution towards the cost. Ongoing funding for the additional pupils will come from the Dedicated Schools Grant, which is increased in line with rising pupil numbers.
Out of 23 responses to the consultation into the all-through proposal, 52 percent were in favour and 35 percent opposed.