THE merger of two schools to form a new academy has moved a step closer after the Department for Edcuation gave the scheme its approval.

Eston Park and Gillbrook academies will now be brought together to create Hillsview Academy, which will be run by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET).

At the same time, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is considering modifying a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to build a £3m extension at Gillbrook’s Normanby Road site, to accommodate the merger.

Councillor Joan Guy, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services and education, said the merger will address a surplus in capacity which will reduce from 1,748 to 1,200.

She said: “Government funding is based on pupil numbers. By addressing a fall in demand it means money can be spent on continuing to improve the quality of education rather than maintaining unnecessary space.

“This scheme will also create a state of the art education facility and help address some of the challenges facing the two academies.”

Both academies are run by AET and have a single governing body, an arrangement that will transfer to Hillsview when the merger is complete, in September.

Welcoming the decision at the council’s cabinet meeting where the plan was approved this morning (Tuesday, March 25), Liberal Democrat councillor Mary Ovens said: “I think it’s important to move forward, we have got an opportunity to give the best opportunity to young people in the area and to raise standards.”

Work is expected to start in July, with completion in Easter 2015, but the building will not be used until the following September to avoid disruption during the exam period.