Unanswered questions over pupil numbers

Parents and pupils of the Dukes Middle School demonstrate their opposition to a merger.
Parents and pupils of the Dukes Middle School demonstrate their opposition to a merger.

One of the issues set out in the schools consultation document is the falling pupil numbers at two middle schools.

Part of the rationale for merging the Duke’s and Lindisfarne Middle Schools in Alnwick on one site is that there are financial challenges relating to both schools.

Following changes to the funding formula in recent years, a school’s budget is almost entirely based on the number of pupils it has and takes no account of the buildings and maintenance costs.

Pupil numbers at both schools have been falling for a number of years, which has a knock-on effect on funding.

The total number of children at Lindisfarne in 2011 was 437, dropping to 405 last year, while at the Duke’s, it fell from 225 in 2011 to 173 in 2014.What’s more, according to the report, the council’s pupil projection data is also showing that numbers will continue to fall in the foreseeable future.

The estimate for the Year 5 intake later this year is 68 at Lindisfarne and just 29 at the Duke’s, meaning a whole-school roll of 356 and 151 respectively.

However, parents from the Duke’s School Action Group, which is opposing the merger of the two schools, say that there are far more current Year 4 pupils at the feeder first schools than the 97 (68+29) estimated for the two Year 5s from 2015.

The Gazette asked the county council about this and was told to contact the governing body which is responsible for the schools.

However, chairman of governors Lalage Bosanquet said: “We have not been given any definite numbers for either middle school in Alnwick. I believe this information is not usually available until March when all parents have made their choice known to the local authority. A parent mentioned it at one of the consultation meetings and questioned the figures, but we have had no further information about this.”