Councillors agree school must close

A NORTH Northumberland school is set to close following the outcome of a 12-week consultation.

At Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive, members reluctantly approved a closure notice for James Calvert Spence College – Hadston Road, formerly Druridge Bay Middle School, from August 31 this year.

Pupils at the school will amalgamate with the former Amble Middle School, now James Calvert Spence College – South Avenue.

But now the focus is turning to the future of both the site and children’s services in the Hadston area.

Coun Richard Dodd, chairman of the Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, presenting a report from a meeting last Thursday, said: “It has come from the governors to the county so we are not forcing this on anyone.

“It’s the falling numbers which cause the great concern and it’s a problem that isn’t going to go away.”

At that meeting, Coun Glen Sanderson, whose East Chevington with Longhorsley ward includes Hadston, highlighted three issues to consider for the future.

He suggested that the school playing fields be retained for the use of the community and he wanted assurances that extended children’s services continue to be provided in Hadston.

He was also concerned that the local community be consulted on the future of the building and site before demolition, which could cost £250,000.

The results of the consultation showed a divide in the community with 50.5 per cent agreeing with the closure and 49.5 per cent against.

Alternative arrangements, including the introduction of a two-tier system and merging the feeder first schools in the area onto the site, were also put forward as part of the consultation. Now the notice has been agreed, the public has six weeks (until March 24) to make comments or objections to the council.

The Executive must then decide if the school will close within two months of the end of this representation period.

Paul Moffat, Corporate Director of Children’s Services at the council, said: “It is regrettable that we have had to consider any closures of schools. A number of options were considered and I would like to thank all those people who have put forward their comments during the consultation period.

“It is the council’s duty to provide the best education for our children and it is more beneficial to a child’s development if they are offered the opportunity for challenge and socialisation in larger groups.”