As demand is rising to critical status for more secondary school places in Thanet, momentum is gathering for the creation of a new secondary school in Ramsgate.
The secondary would be an extension to the existing Newington Community Primary School, which was rated as ‘outstanding’ in every category by Ofsted this year.
It would offer a balanced education programme for up to 600 students in year groups of 120 from Years 7 to 11.
Head teacher Cliff Stokes says it would be a natural progression for his current pupils, and an obvious way to help solve the immediate and dire need for secondary places in the district.
He said: “There is real demand from parents and families for quality secondary provision for their children in this part of Ramsgate.
“More secondary places are needed locally and we can provide outstanding education as a springboard for success for future generations.
“Each year I am asked by pupils preparing to leave our primary school, and their parents, if we can create a continual learning stream that will take them right through to GCSE examinations in Year 11. They love the Newington way and do not want to leave us.
“Parental choice is key in education and our proposal clearly reflects that demand.
“We would work alongside other secondary schools in the area to complement them and enrich the overall provision of education for children in Thanet.”
His words are echoed by parents, governors and others, including South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay. Following a recent fact-finding tour of the school Mr Mackinlay said: “I am so impressed with what is happening at Newington. There is a strong case for education from nursery classes to Year 11 and I fully support the idea.”
Chair of Governors Lesley Gallagher is an education professional and former head teacher. She said: “Everyone with an interest in the ongoing development of our school is totally behind the idea.
“The governors are actively investigating avenues to bring this exciting and necessary project to fruition.”
Parent governor Natalie Luddington added: “Children who have gone through the school from Reception class have been educated in the Newington way.
“Many children who do not pass their Kent Test find it difficult to adapt to other schools’ ways and then tend not to thrive in the structured way.
“It is of upmost importance to have a secondary school attached to Newington Community Primary School so that children can be guided and nurtured in an educational environment to which they are accustomed. It will give them a better future.”
Parent Melanie Anderson from Ramsgate has three children at Newington. She said: “My children love it. They learn well and it is a safe and caring place to be. I firmly believe that a Newington secondary school on this site would be very well supported and meet a need.
“I am all in favour of it because I know how well my children have done from early years right through the school.”
Mr Stokes added: “One main advantage for a ‘wrap around’ educational journey is that there would be a shared philosophy and ethos to ensure greater consistency around expectations from Nursery to Year 11.
“In a typical secondary or primary school, you have certain ways of behaving or ways of interacting with each other or staff. Having them all the way through is an incredible advantage. The children are not moving between different settings with different expectations.
“An all-through school will see teachers from both sectors working together. This will raise the game for everyone – children aren’t able to fall through the gaps.”
Mr Stokes, who has been head at Newington for 11 years, says he has received “huge support” for the proposal including 100 per cent backing in a questionnaire completed by hundreds of parents.
He added: “This will be a new challenge for pupils, delivered the Newington way, with opportunities and encouragement to aim higher in their academic aspirations. The curriculum will be balanced for all abilities and it will be largely academic-focused.”
Detailed plans for Newington Secondary School were submitted to the Department for Education last year.
The isle has a shortage of secondary school places available. This year the shortfall was met by three schools taking more than their admission places -Royal Harbour Academy 31 places, Ursuline College 30 places and St George’s CE Foundation School 10 places.
But education chiefs are predicting a shortfall of 183 Year 7 places for 2019/20 and this rises to 227 by 2022/23 if no action is taken.
Across the school year (Years 7-11) this could mean a shortage of 920 places by 2022/23.