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Suspected meningitis death in Newcastle

Health protection experts from Public Health England (PHE) are advising staff and parents of children who attend Kenton School in Newcastle following the death of a pupil from suspected meningitis.

A statement from Kenton School Credit: School website

This is a sad reminder of how devastating this illness can be and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the child who has died.

It is crucial to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and to get treatment as soon as possible. But sadly, even with early recognition, it is not always possible to stop the rapid progress of this disease.

Meningococcal disease is a rare but life-threatening infection that occurs mainly in children and young adults.

Meningococcal bacteria do not spread easily. Only people who have had prolonged, close contact with the ill person are at a slightly increased risk of becoming unwell and would be offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

We have been working closely with the school and the child’s family. Close contacts have already been identified and are being offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure. It is not necessary for any other people to receive antibiotics.

– PHE CONSULTANT IN HEALTH PROTECTION DR KIRSTY FOSTER
  1. Tom Sheldrick

Northumberland school gets 'protections' against closure

The headteacher of Ponteland Community Middle School says gaining approval to convert to an Academy gives it "protections" if the council decides to push ahead with plans to close it.

Whilst we savour this moment, we also realise there is still much work to do. This Academy Order now gives us a solid platform to commence healing conversations between our schools - and to investigate new ways of working together to provide the three tier structure, within a 3 to 18 school system, that the community have made so clear they would prefer.

The obvious question you will no doubt be asking is what happens if following the consultation, NCC [Northumberland County Council] decide to ignore public opinion and enforce the 2 tier agenda on Ponteland anyway? That would be most regrettable, but under the protections afforded to us by Academy status, our first resolve is to return to the Multi Academy Trust conversation to pick up where we left off.

Potentially as a community of MAT schools, there would be a range of options available to us, but our firm hope is to play a full part in building on the superb education provision our flagship community of schools already have in place.

– Letter to parents from Caroline Pryer - Headteacher, Ponteland Community Middle School

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  1. Tom Sheldrick

Middle school fights closure with Academy approval

One of Northumberland's top-performing schools, which has threatened with closure under council reorganisation plans, has gained approval from the government to convert to an Academy.

The headteacher at Ponteland Community Middle School said the move meant they could celebrate "securing the long term future" of the school.

Ponteland Community Middle School has 600 pupils, aged between 9 and 13.

The school, which was judged 'outstanding' by Ofsted inspectors in 2008 and 2013, has been under threat after Northumberland County Council last month decided to hold a consultation on proposals to move to a system of primary and secondary schools in Ponteland, rather than the current three-tier model.

Will 'space rocket seeds' take off in Washington?

Tim Peake Credit: PA
Credit: ITV

Children at St Joseph's RC Primary School in Washington are planting one hundred rocket seeds that have been on the space station with astronaut Tim Peake.

They will also be planting one hundred seeds that haven't been in space to compare whether the presence of zero gravity makes a difference in the quality of seeds.

It is hoped that the research being carried out by the Royal Horticultural Society will give an indication as to whether we would potentially be able to grow produce on Mars.

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Campaigners welcome Eskdale School reprieve

Campaigners who have fought against plans to close Eskdale School in Whitby have welcomed the "fantastic news" that North Yorkshire County Council will suspend its decision-making on the school's future.

Parents, teachers, and current and former pupils were among thousands to have opposed the closure of Eskdale School.

It is fantastic news that North Yorkshire County Council have decision to suspend decision-making and look at other options.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of support for Eskdale School: over 5,200 people signed the petition, over 120,000 have watched Alistair Griffin's music video, hundreds turned out at the protest and consultation evenings - and the vast majority of consultation responses were against the proposals.

We understand there may be more fights to come - but we are ready for them, to save our school.

– Louise Cornforth, Save Eskdale campaigner

Controversial plans to close Whitby school put on hold

Controversial plans to close North Yorkshire's last remaining middle school have been put on hold.

North Yorkshire County Council has announced today that it has suspended decision-making on its proposal to close Eskdale School in Whitby, due to the government's expectations that all schools should become academies.

Eskdale School has 450 pupils, aged 11 to 14.

Eskdale could have been shut as early as this summer and amalgamated with Caedmon College in the town, under council plans aimed at improving standards.

Parents, pupils and teachers have fought the proposals, with more than 1,000 objecting in the council's public consultation.

A final decision on the school's future was due in June - but that has now been pushed back significantly.

What we are now proposing is a pause for further consideration of how the Government's stated ambitions might come about in Whitby whilst also addressing the very serious concerns that we have expressed as a local authority.

The consultation process has generated considerable interest and strong contributions but the challenges and our concerns about the entire secondary system in Whitby have not gone away.

This strategic pause must now be used well to enable key leaders of the local schools, academy sponsors, the Regional Schools Commissioner and the local authority to explore all options which address the real risks to quality secondary provision in the town.

– Cllr Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire's Executive Member for Schools

Durham Council say teaching assistant contracts are "unfair"

Durham County Council have released a statement in response to the teaching assistants demonstrating outside their offices against proposed changes to their contracts.

Teaching assistants are protesting today against proposed changes to their contracts. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Council say changes to the current contracts are "both fair and equitable for its teaching assistants by bringing them into line with its other 17,000 employees."

The council is considering changing the pay structure of teaching assistants from a 52 week salary to term time only.

Cllr Jane Brown, Cabinet member for corporate services at Durham County Council, said:

“The council proposal is that teaching assistants should only be paid for the hours that they work like all other council employees, and only for the weeks that they work on a term-time basis.

“The current remuneration arrangement is that a large number of teaching assistants work 32.5 hours per week and yet they are paid as if they work 37 hours per week. In addition they are paid as if they work 52 weeks per year, rather than the school term-time only that they actually work.

The council see this as being unfair and the proposal is to amend their terms and conditions to bring their pay into line with the other 17,000 council employees who only get paid for the hours actually worked. Regrettably, this will mean a reduction in some teaching assistants’ income and in order to mitigate against this, the majority of schools have agreed in principle to increase the hours worked of teaching assistants to 37 hours. This means that they would not suffer a detriment as a result of change in weekly income.

Taking this into account, the average loss of income in respect of the teaching assistants being paid for working term-timing as opposed to being paid as if working 52 weeks per year, is less than 10% and to help individual teaching assistants to manage through the change in income, the council has proposed a three year phased pay protection arrangement for those individuals affected.

The council believes this proposed change in terms and conditions is both fair and equitable for its teaching assistants by bringing them into line with its other 17,000 employees.”

– Cllr Jane Brown, Cabinet member for corporate services at Durham County Council
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