Date: 13/05/21
By Alan Hardie, CEO at NCEAT.

In March we launched a consultation on our proposal to split Bishop’s Primary into five separate schools, one on each of the existing campuses. The consultation closed at the end of April and we analysed the responses to determine whether there was support for the proposal. Thank you to everyone who responded.

Although there were a relatively small number of parental responses, the responses we received were overwhelmingly in support of the plan. We also received formal letters of support from the Diocese of Newcastle and Northumberland County Council and a neighbouring school. Importantly, there were also no objections to the plan.

This meant that we could move on to the next stage, which involved writing and submitting a formal business plan for the change to the Department for Education. This was submitted on 6th May and we hope to receive the decision by the end of June. We will of course update you as soon as we have any further news.

Although there no objections to the plan, there were a number of valid questions raised about potential uniform changes. I would like to reassure parents and carers that even if permission is given to open five separate schools in September 2021, we will not be making any changes to the current Bishop’s uniform during the 2021-22 school year.

We’ve made it clear in the consultation that the main reason for making the change is so that each school can have even stronger links with its local community. Uniform is an important issue for any school and its key roles in creating a sense of community and reducing pressure on families to buy expensive fashion clothes must be balanced against making uniform as affordable as possible.

So if we are allowed to create separate schools then we will take our time to make the best possible decisions about uniform. This will involve extensive consultation with pupils, parents and carers so that everyone has the chance to express their views and so we make decisions which will be well supported by each school’s community. There will be no sudden changes and any changes will be phased in.

At the moment, we are fully compliant with Government guidelines on making school uniform affordable for parents, but as some of you may be aware, a new law on school uniform was passed last month. This will require schools to follow the new statutory guidelines which the Department for Education will be introducing in the autumn. Any future reviews of school uniform policies will have to follow these new guidelines and we will ensure that this is included in future consultations. We think that is a positive step and we remain committed to keep uniform costs as affordable as possible so that it should not be a barrier to children attending our schools.