It’s great that a new school is reopening on the site of Newall Green and I have no doubt that if it is anything like its sister school, Dixon’s Brooklands Academy, it will offer fantastic opportunities for our young people, so that is genuinely terrific news for our community.
I think it would be remiss of me to not talk about the closure of Newall Green and why I fought so hard to save it. I was contacted back in 2020 (way before Covid was on anyone’s radar) to say that the school was under threat of closure. I was contacted by residents whose children were due to go there, or who were already studying there, and asked to intervene.
I quickly contacted the regional school’s commissioner, the Council and the Councillors and tried to understand how a school which was so necessary could be considered for closure? Particularly as we knew that at that time, Manchester City Council’s ‘School Place Planning’ data showed an increase of secondary school aged children in south Manchester in the next 2-3 years. Here we are, almost exactly on cue, two and a half years later with a lack of school spaces. I wrote the Secretary of State for Education (see copy of letter) and met with the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, and made the case to him too – but to no avail.
I don’t mean to sound flippant about this; as an ex-teacher I know the transition to secondary school can be a really stressful time. I also know that uncertainty is not good for children as they grow. I have continued to received huge amounts of casework from local families whose children were allocated school places out of area. I know they were worried for their children, who’ve already been through a few challenging years over the lockdown. These year sevens and eight’s would have to navigate long journeys before and after school on multiple modes of public transport and their parents were genuinely worried about this. One thing I am grateful for is that the site remained largely as it was and so thankfully, we don’t have to begin from scratch again and can start to admit children again in September 2023.
The decision to close Newall Green caused a lot of anxiety and stress for local people and it was, in my opinion, unnecessary. I would like to thank Cllr Garry Bridges for working so hard with me and with local Councillors and other partners to achieve this outcome. I do wonder how the kids I met through the campaign are and would love them to let me know how they are getting on?
I am genuinely delighted we will have another option for a great education on our doorstep for local children. I look forward to coming in and meeting with the team and the children when the school reopens in 2023.