A SCHOOL will benefit from a new training hub as part of a drive to attract and retain teaching talent in the North-East.

Earlier this year, plans were lodged for a new building at Sedgefield Community College, off Hawthorn Road.

The facility forms part of a partnership between Durham University and the Laidlaw Schools Trust around teacher training.

Proposals include a two storey building, connected into an existing annex, which will boast five classrooms, an auditorium, social space and breakout areas.

The project is partly driven by a shortage of space at the college, with the new building set to be used by existing pupils and visiting university students.

Alex Proctor, associate director at ADP Architecture, said: “The Trust which has a number of academies and schools in the North East are looking to give themselves the edge when attracting the best student teachers they can.

“We all know the North East has a bit of an issue with what they call the ‘brain drain’ whether that be people locally studying here and moving south, or people from the south moving up, studying and going back home.

“The trust is very keen to retain as much talent as they can in the North East.”

Mr Proctor was speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of Durham County Council’s South and west area planning committee – which was held digitally in line with social distancing guidelines.

He added the plans would pave the way for up to 100 new parking spaces on site, with 50 being brought forward initially to serve 50 extra university students.

Councillors heard there were concerns about potential traffic implications, with objections from  Sedgefield Town Council and one member of the public.

But representatives for the applicant stressed that sessions for university students would be staggered by subject, with students entering the site at different times.

The Northern Echo:

Councillor John Robison, Chair of Governors, Dave Davies, outgoing Headteacher, Jane Spence, Chief Executive of Laidlaw Schools Trust and new head Geoff Robinson

College leaders are also expected to develop a new travel plan to manage the extra traffic, with a focus on car sharing and promoting the use of public transport.

Planners, recommending the training hub for approval, noted the plans were in line with local and national planning policies and would not impact on residents or playing fields.

The council’s highways department also raised no concerns about the proposals, noting the scheme would only generate one additional vehicle trip every four to five minutes on Hawthorn Road.

Following discussion, councillors approved the teacher training hub with a unanimous vote.

Councillor Shirley Quinn said the plans would be “absolutely brilliant for Sedgefield.”

She said: “I welcome the development there and it’s good news that we’re going to possibly be having a more quality teaching staff there.

“It’s good, especially for this particular area, to be retaining staff and attaining new staff as well as delivering the best for the students in the area.”

Funding has been ringfenced for the project with the new teacher training facility expected to open by September 2021.