Councillor tells of her ‘regret’ after leading school changes

Cllr Gina Odgen accepts a petition signed by 1000 people on the steps of Northamptonshire County Hall in 1987. Protesters were campaigning against the proposed closure of the Grange Comprehensive School.
Cllr Gina Odgen accepts a petition signed by 1000 people on the steps of Northamptonshire County Hall in 1987. Protesters were campaigning against the proposed closure of the Grange Comprehensive School.
0
Have your say

A councillor who spearheaded the controversial closure of a Daventry school alongside an overhaul of sixth form provision has spoken of her ‘regret’ over the long-term failure of the plan to revitalise education in the town.

Gina King – previously Gina Ogden – was chairman of the Northamptonshire County Council education committee which pushed through the closure of Daventry’s Grange Comprehensive School and the creation of the new Tertiary College in the late 1980s.

Daventry’s two other secondaries were relaunched as Danetre School and Parker School, without their previous sixth form provision.

But the Tertiary College – which was hoped to safeguard the future of higher learning in the town – failed to impress parents and has since been identified as one of the key reasons for the continued migration of Daventry secondary pupils to schools in neighbouring towns and villages.

But Mrs King, who retired from her position as county councillor for Weedon Bec and Woodford in 2013, told the Gusher that the creation of Daventry Tertiary College was the best option available at the time, adding that a “lack of aspiration” among Daventry families made getting more students into higher education and university extremely difficult.

She said: “We were concerned about the aspirations and experience of young people; we had 150 sixth form students for the whole three schools – which was not really viable. The Tertiary College had 600 applications when it opened, but most people didn’t know what ‘tertiary’ meant.”

The reorganisation of the schools in the late 1980s attracted widespread opposition from secondary parents, who voted nine to one in a ballot paper against the proposals. A campaign supported by teachers to stop the closure of the Grange School also ended in failure.

Mrs King said: “It was controversial because having had the consultation people were saying which school they thought should be closed.

“Our choice was the best, but the fact was the others were more accessible to everybody than the Grange Comprehensive because it was further out. But have you ever known a parent who wasn’t against changes? People do not like change.”

Daventry Tertiary College was opened in 1989 but struggled to win the long-term support of parents and students before it merged with Northampton College in 2004 to provide greater security and financial support.

Sixth-form education was eventually reintroduced to Parker E-ACT Academy and Danetre and Southbrook Learning Village in 2011.

Mrs King said: “In those days [1980s] we had total control over education, unlike today. We could see which primary schools would feed into secondaries. There was continuous change.

“The fact is the teachers have always been against it and they have been fermenting ever since it happened, in my opinion. We all felt at the time it was the right decision but I was not a popular person, I used to hide the Daventry Express from my children.

“But it was not political. It was plain and simply trying to get the education in Daventry to be the best it could. We wanted to improve education, aspiration and hope for the future – that was the real reason.”

Mrs King said she regretted not making sure the college was monitored successfully: “My regret is that we did not spot it was not going as well as it could have and didn’t keep an eye on the ball to make sure it did function. That is a huge regret, that it did not succeed, as it would have been marvellous.”

The interview with Mrs King followed a Daventry Express report on January 15 that one in three local primary school pupils elected to go to secondary schools outside the town in 2014.

l Our view, page 17. Tell us what you think – email editorial@daventryexpress.co.uk