Church High and Central to merge

Church High and Central Newcastle girls schools in Jesmond are to merge, creating Newcastle High School for Girls.

Central High head Hilary French will become head of the merged school when it opens in September 2014. Joy Gatenby, head of Church High, will stay on full-time as an executive adviser to the new school, and part of the leadership team, until her retirement in July 2015.

The proposal is to redevelop the Church High site on Tankerville Terrace for use as the Senior School and Sixth Form for girls aged 11-18, while the younger pupils will be accommodated at Central High’s newly renovated Chapman House on Sandyford Park.

The two existing schools will operate in parallel for the next academic year, fully merging in September 2014 when the current cohorts of A Level and GCSE students have finished their courses. Angela Charlton, currently head of the Junior School at Central High, will become head of the Junior School at Newcastle High School for Girls. Judith Cunningham, head of Church High Junior School, will be retiring at the end of this academic year, and her deputy, Jill Brown, will become acting head of Church High Junior School for 2013-2014.

Central High head Hilary French said in a press release: “It is a privilege and daily joy to me to be working in a community dedicated to creating the best environment for girls so that they have every opportunity to achieve their full potential. Girls relish the space – both learning and physical – to grow and test themselves intellectually, creatively and physically. The chance to develop a school for girls incorporating all that we know about the way that girls learn, the spaces they need, what great teaching looks like for them and how the day can best be shaped for them is hugely exciting. Newcastle High School for Girls will give girls the very best start in life and imbue them with the confidence and self-belief to deal with whatever life might throw at them in university and beyond.”

In the same release, Church High head Joy Gatenby commented:  “The two schools have so much in common – both have a history and a heritage in the city and a long-standing commitment to bringing out the best in every individual girl in our care. As independent girls’ schools focused on the pastoral care and personal and academic development of our girls, there’s much we can learn from each other. We shall take the best of Central High and the best of Church High – academically and creatively – to make the very best school in the region. Our girls will benefit from excellent, focused teaching, the use of digital technology and superb facilities in sport, the arts, science, languages – indeed across the whole curriculum. I’m enormously excited by the opportunities this joint venture will provide our girls.”

Church High has published the following Q&A for parents:

Why are you doing this?
Church High’s governing body and executive have been looking at a range of strategic options to enhance
the future development of the school. During this time the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) approached our
governors and as a result of this, and with the full support of both governing bodies, we reached an
agreement to create a new school by joining together girls and staff from both Church High and Central
Newcastle High Schools.
Both schools share a similar ethos and a long history – they are close both geographically and in their
commitment to the best education and care for girls. This is a unique opportunity to create an exceptionally
strong independent girls’ school in Newcastle, indeed it will be one of the top schools in the country. The
new school will provide the best of our combined experience and facilities and, as a member of the wider
GDST, staff and students will benefit from the support and advice of the expert staff and of their peers in
the other schools in the GDST network.
What will the new school be called?
Newcastle High School for Girls.
What will this mean for my daughter?
The new school will enable us to offer your daughter an unrivalled range of curricular and extra-curricular
opportunities and bring together the best of both schools to create a vibrant new learning community and
the best school in the region.
When will the merger take place?
For the rest of this academic year and the next the two schools will run in parallel as currently – there will
be very little change in the day-to-day routine for the girls or staff. To allow girls currently studying their
GCSEs or A Levels to continue uninterrupted the full merger will be completed by September 2014.
This is an exciting project, but we appreciate it is a major change for staff, pupils and parents. We want
time to ensure a well-planned integration process.
Which site will the new school occupy?
The outline proposal is that the new Senior School will occupy redeveloped facilities on the Church High
site at Tankerville Terrace. All senior pupils will move to Central High in September 2014 while the Church
High site is redeveloped, and once that is complete the entire Senior School will move to Tankerville
All Junior School pupils will be accommodated at Central High’s Chapman House on Sandyford Park from
September 2014. Chapman House, which includes a Grade II listed John Dobson building, has recently
been extensively refurbished to provide excellent facilities for infant and junior pupils. There will be
opportunities for Church High parents to visit Chapman House soon.
Who will govern the school?
As a GDST school the ultimate governing body will be the Trustees of the GDST (known as the Council).
There will also be a school governing board appointed, with an equal number of members from both the
Central High and Church High governing boards.
Who will lead the new school?
The schools will initially run in parallel, with staff reporting to their respective Heads as now. Thereafter,
Hilary French, currently Head of Central High, will be the Headteacher of the new school from September
2014, and Joy Gatenby will stay on full-time as an executive advisor and an integral part of the leadership
team until July 2015, when she will retire.The new Head of the combined Junior School will be Angela Charlton, currently Head of Central High’s
Junior School. As Judith Cunningham, the Head of Church High Junior School, has already announced her
retirement, the Deputy Head, Jill Brown, will be Acting Head of Church High Junior School for the 2013-
2014 academic year.
What will happen to staff?
A full curriculum plan is being developed to deliver the best broad and balanced education for the girls in
the new School. Alongside this a staffing plan is being drawn up and staff will be consulted on it before it is
What will be the effect on the school’s academic record?
Pupils attending both Church High and Central High consistently achieve some of the best academic
results in the country. Both schools have much in common: they both stretch and challenge their girls
academically and both are committed to offering girls the best broad and balanced all-round education.
In the new school an academically able girl will be stretched and challenged, and she will find that the new
school will have even more similarly-inclined girls with whom she can work. The numbers of As and A*s
she can expect to achieve will still far exceed what she could expect in another school.
What support will there be for girls with SEN?
We are committed to ensuring that each girl achieves her full potential – academically, socially and
personally. We will treat each girl as an individual and give her all the support we are able. The excellent
provision already in place in both schools will continue and develop according to the needs of girls in the
new school.
Will class sizes increase?
Class sizes will depend on the number of girls in each Year and the optimum number of forms for that Year
group. More important than class sizes, is the quality of teaching, and we intend that every teacher at
Newcastle High School for Girls will provide the best possible education for your daughter.
My daughter will be moving site half-way through her GCSE or A Level course. How will this
process be managed?
We shall ensure that the GCSE and A Level courses begun next academic year will be the same at both
Church High and Central High. Girls will be well prepared for the integration and will continue their studies
with their peers and many of the same teachers. It will be an absolute priority to ensure that girls
experience very little disruption and the support they receive will, as always, be second to none.
What will the fee levels be?
Initially the two schools will run in parallel, so no change for the rest of this academic year. Fees in both
schools are reviewed annually and parents will be given a term’s notice of any changes.
My daughter has a scholarship or bursary – will that be affected?
Existing commitments will be honoured.
What will be the new school’s uniform?
As a new school there will be a new uniform and new branding. We will engage an independent branding
expert to help us to develop the new logo and colours. The new branding will acknowledge the history and
heritage of the two founding Schools but also its new beginnings and future ambitions.
I chose Church High for its Christian ethos – will that remain?
The ethos of the new school will recognise the importance of the girls’ physical, emotional and spiritual
wellbeing in providing a solid foundation for their academic achievement and happy, successful lives at
school, higher education and beyond. Our girls will become confident young women with strong moral
values and a respect for others. An inclusive approach will be at the heart of the new school; it will be nondenominational but will embrace those of all faiths and none, building on the very best of Central and
Church High’s long traditions of excellence and drawing on Church High’s Christian heritage. Girls’ spiritual
welfare and development will continue to be an integral part of the education we offer.

Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls Day School Trust (GDST) to which Central Newcastle belongs, has recorded the following video to explain the merger.

The GDST says it will be making a substantial financial investment in “transforming the buildings and creating state-of-the-art facilities to ensure Newcastle High School for Girls provides the best environment for girls’ education”. However, initial reaction to the merger from parents and pupils has been mixed:



What do you think of this merger? Tells us below in the comment section, or vote in our poll at

4 thoughts on “Church High and Central to merge”

  1. jennie says:

    Absolutely shocking. Rival schools should never merge.

  2. kate says:

    I think this news is terrible, after me and my mother have both been students at church high I think to pull it into Central School will be terrible for the girls that attend the school now. Looking back on how it was 10years ago, I feel for the girls at GCSE and ALevel age, what a badly thought out and handled plan. Poor parents paying £3k a term and being told in such a manner, what is church high thinking. RIP Church High

  3. LB says:

    I was also a pupil. Maybe its a sign of the times, there was a press report recently saying that people weren’t prepared to pay the fees anymore. There are a few good state schools in the north East region giving these schools a run for their money!

  4. John Smith says:

    They make it sound so exciting but omit the fact that staff where told last night that 50% of them are going to lose their jobs. Staff have to reapply for their jobs and will be told in March who no longer has a job. Disgusting!

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