County Council pledge public consultation on Sunnydale

Sunnydale School
As Sunnydale School’s future hangs in the balance, the Crier is joining the campaign to retain a high school in Shildon.

In a letter to the Crier this week (see below for full content), Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Cllr Olwyn Gunn, has pledged that the unitary authority “will be consulting staff, students, their parents and the local community in order to find the best outcome”, for the Sunnydale Campus of Greenfield Community College. 

However, the letter, and a subsequent statement from Richard Crane, Durham County Council’s head of education and skills, makes no promise that a high school will be retained in Shildon, instead saying that “options will be reviewed in this next academic year as we look to find a permanent solution for the site.”

Cllr Gunn was responding to a letter in a previous issue of the Crier (issue 968) from educationalist and local resident, Fred Langley, who is campaigning for the retention of a high school in Shildon. 

Mr Langley revealed in his letter (see page 5) that he had asked a series of questions of Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, including concerns about the future education of Shildon’s children, the associated costs and the future of the Sunnydale site. 

Last week, the Crier commissioned an essay from local Town Councillor, Kelly Ambrosini, herself a school teacher and campaigner for the school (Managed decline: the slow death of Sunnydale must be resisted, issue 969).

Cllr Ambrosini pointed out that Shildon has three highly successful primary schools, arguing that “it should therefore be the right of these children to progress their education in the town where they live in order to continue that excellent groundwork.”

She also expressed disppointment that “Durham’s Head of Children’s Services [Richard Crane] declined an invitation to a meeting with Town Councillors to discuss concerns about decisions made and what the future holds for the site as he didn’t see it as being ‘appropriate’.”

This week, Mr Crane has provided a statement to the Crier in response to Cllr Ambrosini’s article saying: “Every student who will be joining or returning to Greenfield Community College in September knows that they will be educated at the Greenfield site in Newton Aycliffe. 

“Although it had operated on a split site basis after amalgamating in 2015, the majority of pupils were educated at the Greenfield site, with around 150 pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 educated on the Sunnydale site in the last academic year. 

“When health and safety issues led to its temporary closure in January this year, all pupils were moved to the one site at Greenfield.

“Parents, staff and students have been made aware that this arrangement will continue in September while we further consider all options for the Sunnydale site, with a view to finding a permanent, sustainable solution.  

“Naturally, at the centre of any decision will be the educational outcomes of the children and young people from both communities.”

Mr Crane went on to address the initial rejection of a meeting with town councillors, adding: “We will also be meeting with town councillors in the near future to discuss this and any other updates regarding Greenfield Community College will be communicated to parents, staff and students as soon as possible.”

The future of Sunnydale Campus has been in the balance for many years, particularly during the past decade, when a systematic decline has been observed and reported on in subsequent Ofsted reports. 

The decline has coincided with a central government reduction in the local authority budget of over £263m since 2010, prompting  Durham County Council to actively offload much of its real estate while identifying further reductions. Many schools have fallen victim to the cull. 

The Crier is supporting what it considers a vital campaign to retain a high school in the town and has asked a number of supplementary questions to Durham County Council, including whether economic, environmental and emotional impact studies have been undertaken. The authority has declined to answer any of our questions, many of which will now become subject to Freedom of Information requests. 

The Crier is also keen to hear from parents, teachers and other members of the community wishing to get involved in the community campaign. You can email us at crier@swd.news or call 07515 552824. All communications will be treated in the strictest confidence.


Letter from Cllr Olwyn Gunn

Re: Excluded from school meeting

I would like to respond to Mr Langley’s letter in issue 968 of the Shildon and District Town Crier (see page 5) regarding pupils from Shildon, which contained some inaccuracies.

It was claimed in the letter that there has been a lack of clarification regarding Greenfield Community College.  

However, I would like to reassure Mr Langley that every student who will be joining or returning to Greenfield Community College in September knows that they will educated at the Greenfield site in Newton Aycliffe.

Parents, staff and students are aware that this remains the case while we further consider the options for the Sunnydale site, which was temporarily closed in January as a result of health and safety issues. 

Those options will be reviewed in this next academic year as we look to find a permanent solution for the site.

As part of our decision-making process, we will be consulting staff, students, their parents and the local community in order to find the best outcome. 

Furthermore, we will ensure that those parents, staff and students are made aware of any other updates regarding Greenfield Community College as soon as possible.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, 
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services.

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