Proposed closure of Northumberland school announced

St Mary's C. of E. VA Middle School Belford.
St Mary's C. of E. VA Middle School Belford.

A proposal to close a north Northumberland school has been announced.

Governors at St Mary’s C of E Middle School in Belford have informed parents of a move to close at the end of the summer term.

The proposed is based on a predicated fall in pupil numbers from 98 to 67 which places the school ‘beyond financial viability’.

It is understood a number of pupils had already indicated they were going to move to Duchess’s High School in Alnwick which now takes Year 7 and Year 8 pupils following its move to a two-tier education system last year.

Alison Hilton, chairman of governors, explained: “The governing body of St Mary’s Church of England Middle School believe pupils should have access to the highesy standard of education provision.

“However, it has become increasingly difficult to provide the best possible experience for children at St Mary’s, particularly in light of the predicted significant fall in pupil numbers from September 2017.

“Schools are funded according to the number of pupils they have, therefore as pupil numbers decline, the school’s budget falls accordingly. This has a serious impact on the ability to maintain appropriate staffing levels to enable the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum.

“From September 2017 it is likely we will only have around 67 pupils attending St Mary’s. This presents significant challenges for the school and places us beyond financial viability.

“This number of pupils would mean we could not effectively operate a balanced and appropriate curriculum with the number of specialist teachers required, particularly for those children in Years 7 and 8.”

She revealed that, in addition, the school has received a letter from the Regional Schools Commissioner, Jan Renou of the Department for Education, explaining that St Mary’s has been identified as a ‘coasting school’, meaning that pupils’ academic performance has not improved in the last three years.

“Therefore, with the greatest reluctance and regret, the governing body has concluded it is in the best educational interests of the pupils at St Mary’s to initiate a consultation exercise to examine a proposal to close the school with effect from 31st August, 2017,” writes Mrs Hilton.

This process is now underway and parents and other stakeholders are being given the chance to give their views.

A parent and public consultation event will also be organised.