Ministers elect to get fresh in Newcastle

18th July 1997 at 01:00
Ministers have chosen a Newcastle comprehensive to pilot their Fresh Start policy in which a new school is opened on the site of one which has failed.

At the request of Stephen Byers, school standards minister, the Labour-controlled local authority has recruited a team to investigate creating a new school on the site of Blakelaw comprehensive, which failed its inspection last year.

According to David Bell, Newcastle's chief education officer, the team will consider opening a school with a technical or vocational bias.

The 560-pupil comprehensive was one of 18 failing schools making insufficient improvement named in the Labour Government's first few weeks. It had been earmarked by the local authority for closure before the election, but, said Mr Bell, "the previous administration failed to take a decision on our application to close the school and we have now been asked to look at a fresh start".

The team of local authority advisers and governors and teachers from the school have been taking advice from William Atkinson, the head recruited to turn round the failing Hammersmith - now Phoenix - school in London.

The Government is expected to announce next week the progress made by the named schools. Of the 18, one is already due to close - Handsworth Wood boys in Birmingham.

Ministers may have it in mind to try out the Fresh Start policy at schools other than Blakelaw. The London borough of Southwark has been considering the future of Dulwich high school. The latest report to the council admitted that there has not been sufficent improvement at the school which changed its name from William Penn last year.

However, the potential problems of the Fresh Start policy have been illustrated at Ingram high, also one of the 18. The National Union of Teachers is in dispute with the London borough of Croydon, the local authority, over what it considers a breach of procedures in dealing with under-performing teachers.

The school has been renamed Selhurst high; a new head was appointed in January and the school is due to move to refurbished premises.

All 18 schools have been requested to produce an action programme by October.

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