Parents call for delay in Belford school closure process

Locals protesting against the closure of Belford Middle School.
 Picture by Jane Coltman
Locals protesting against the closure of Belford Middle School. Picture by Jane Coltman

Worried parents have called on governors to delay the proposed closure of St Mary’s CE Middle School in Belford.

A consultation on the future of the school is now under way, with its possible closure at the end of the summer term on the table.

However, the Belford Schools Action Group (BSAG) believes the timescales involved are ‘impractical, unworkable and unacceptable’.

“The time to consult properly and come to a decision before the 2017/18 school year is already too short to be appropriate,” says BSAG.

It has drafted a document, The Way Forward, which asks the school and church diocese to delay or extend the consultation period for at least a year for all options to be thoroughly examined.

In the short term, it wants to look at ways of reducing costs to ensure a first and middle school operates in 2017/18. In the longer term, it suggests the formation of a Belford Primary School could be a solution.

The points were put across at a well-attended public consultation event in the school on Monday evening.

Paul Rickeard, director of education for the diocese, said that on projected figures, it was expected the school would record a loss of £175,000 by 2020.

He said the school had been struggling to attract new teaching staff, highlighted by its inability to recruit a new full-time headteacher.

The school had obtained a school-to-school support grant and it was also in the process of applying for a second round of funding from the same source.

“As a diocese, we want the children of Belford to have the best possible schooling,” he said.

He and Alison Hilton, chairman of governors, said they would take on board all the comments from parents and would use it as part of the consultation process.

The diocese has already held a meeting with the headteacher of the first school which also forms part of the process.