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Parents to voice academy views; Public meetings to gauge opinion.

Byline: By Dave Black

ALMOST 20 public meetings will be held to give parents their say on plans for a pounds 44.6m city academy in two neighbouring Northumberland communities.

Education bosses have unveiled the extensive consultation, which will be used to gauge public opinion on proposals for the all-age academy for 2,725 students in Ashington and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

Two of the meetings are organised by the academy sponsors - the Church of England and the Duke of Northumberland - who will outline their roles at meetings in the two communities. The other 17 meetings will be at schools, each with separate sessions for staff, governors and the public.

They start on February 28 with a meeting at Abbeyfields First School in Morpeth, from where pupils with special educational needs would transfer to the proposed academy on the site of Hirst High School in Ashington.

Others will be at each of the nine schools in Hirst High pyramid, which are due to close next year and be replaced with an academy at four sites in Ashington and Newbiggin.

They are Hirst High, Seaton Hirst Middle and Coulson Park, Welbeck, Alexandra and Hawthorn First Schools in Ashington, plus Newbiggin Middle and the village's Moorside and Windsor First Schools.

Six meetings will be held at other schools in Ashington and at Lynemouth First School, which would transfer from the Hirst pyramid to become a feeder school for Ashington Community High School. The scheme involves building a main academy at the Hirst High site - with secondary, primary and special needs elements - and three primary academies at the Newbiggin Middle and Ashington's Alexandra and Hawthorn sites.

County council executive member for children's services Jim Wright said: "I am delighted that consultation is now under way as I believe improvements and investment in Hirst schools is absolutely necessary. Hirst children deserve the best possible educational opportunities.

"The proposed model which we're consulting on would see a massive investment in school buildings in Hirst. It also offers huge opportunities to explore innovations that may drive up standards in this area."

The meetings, all at 7pm, will be at Abbeyfields First on February 28, Hirst High on March 3, Welbeck First on March 4, Ashington High on March 5, Seaton Hirst Middle on March 6, Alexandra First on March 10 and Hirst Park on March 11.

They continue at Lynemouth First on March 12, Newbiggin Middle and Central First on March 13, Moorside and Wansbeck First on March 17, Hawthorn First on March 18 and Windsor First and Bothal Middle on March 19.

The sponsors' meetings are on March 26 in Ashington, at a venue to be decided, and March 31 at Newbiggin sports centre.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2008
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