School faces final chapter

THE death knell of a north Northumberland school is expected on Monday as the final decision is made on its closure.

Following a 12-week consultation which ended in January, Northumberland County Council’s Executive approved the issue of a statutory notice for the closure of James Calvert Spence College – Hadston Road, formerly Druridge Bay Middle School, on Monday, February 7.

The pupils would amalgamate with those at James Calvert Spence College – South Avenue, formerly Amble Middle School.

The statutory six-week consultation closed on Thursday, March 24, and the Executive will make the final decision at a meeting on Monday morning.

But Coun Glen Sanderson urged members of East Chevington Parish Council to attend today’s Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee to hammer home the points about why the school should remain open and to see that assurances are given about what would happen if the site does close.

“I want to see it spelt out that, if the school does close, there will be money for the demolition of the site and there will be consultation with the residents on what happens to the site after that,” he said.

“I have had some assurances that money has been set aside to the tune of £280,000 for the demolition. If the site is left like that (standing but empty) it will be an absolute nightmare,” he added.

The report to the executive states that ongoing community use of the building would require both initial investment and ongoing revenue as well as community support.

It also makes clear that a decision would have to bear in mind the “already extensive community facilities currently available in Hadston.”

Coun Sanderson also told the parish council that he had had an agreement that the playing fields would remain in ‘perpetuity for residents’ but admitted that it was important to discuss alternative changing facilities at the site, as the current ones would be lost if the school is demolished.

He added that it was important to safeguard the provision of extended services.

“The key thing is we say we want extended services to carry on in this area and they are delivered by whoever is the most appropriate person and it is shared so the kids do not lose out. They must be delivered and they must be delivered here.

“We are owed, I think, by this (moves to close the school) and it is important that we carry on the fight.”

Representatives from the parish council are set to attend today’s meeting to give a five-minute presentation about why the school should stay open.

Coun Scott Dickinson said he also intends to attend Monday’s Executive meeting.

“I will rock the boat at both,” he said. “It is the only way.”

The statutory consultation received three responses with both East Chevington Parish Council and the governing body of Grange View CofE First School opposing the closure, while the Coquet Federation, who govern both the Hadston Road and South Avenue schools, support the closure.