Here endeth the lessons

CAMPAIGNERS have lost their fight to keep a village school open after Northumberland councillors agreed its closure.

The death knell for James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) – Hadston Road, formerly Druridge Bay Middle School, was sounded at Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive.

It means the school will shut its doors at the end of August and merge its pupils with JCSC – South Avenue, formerly Amble Middle School, from September.

A decline in student numbers at both schools forced the governing body of the Coquet Federation to propose the merger plan, saying that it was the most effective way to provide the best education and increase resources for pupils as well as securing secondary education within the Coquet Partnership.

A 12-week public consultation resulted in 50.5 per cent of people in favour while 49.5 per cent were against, with objectors, including East Chevington Parish Council, voicing numerous concerns, such as the major impact it would have on the community.

And the formal closure of the school has been met with dismay by objectors.

Coun Glen Sanderson, ward member for Chevington with Longhorsley, said he was saddened at the news and that the community had lost a ‘major integral part of its heart’.

“I am bitterly disappointed that it has finally been made although I am not entirely surprised,” he said. “This decision is effectively very bad news for the community. They will have to pick themselves up and make the best of it, but I know they will because they are a resilient community.”

Meanwhile, on social networking site Facebook, people have vented their anger on a special page entitled Save Druridge Bay Middle School, describing the closure as a ‘disgrace’ and a ‘poorly judged decision’.

At Monday’s meeting, Richard Kielty, headteacher at the South Avenue site, said that there will be continuity for the pupils.

He confirmed that the youngsters from school buses which will drop off at JCSC – Acklington Road, formerly Coquet High School, will then be escorted by teachers to the South Avenue school in the morning and then back at the end of the day.

“The governing body and the executive headteacher realise how important it is to maintain continuity,” he said. “There will be transition days and we will look to move people gradually before the summer break so the children will be aware of and comfortable with their new surroundings.”

With the fate of the school decided, Coun Sanderson has reiterated the need for the future of the site to be handled correctly.

He has called for the building to be demolished within 12 months and for residents to be consulted about how the site can best be used to benefit both the local community and economy.

He also wants the playing fields to be preserved for residents with the provision of suitable changing facilities and has stressed the need for extended services to continue to be delivered effectively at the site.

Coun Sanderson met members of the Executive after Monday’s meeting to hammer home his concerns.

He said: “I expressed to them how important it was for me to have a written understanding about the issues which I think are very important.

“This next stage is equally important to get right as the first stage. I have been given assurances that these points, which I consider important, have been taken on board.”