First-school closure set to be signed off next month

Acklington CofE First School
Acklington CofE First School

North Northumberland is set to lose one of its rural first schools at the end of the year, with the decision to be signed off at the start of next month.

A report to Tuesday’s meeting of the county council’s family and children’s services committee, which then goes to the cabinet for a decision on Tuesday, November 7, recommends approving the closure of Acklington CofE First School.

This is in line with what was put forward by the governing body and means the school would close its doors for the final time at the end of December.

Despite the first school becoming part of the James Calvert Spence College hard federation in 2015 to support it and reduce overheads, the falling pupil numbers meant the governors launched a consultation on closure in May.

At that time, there were 13 pupils on roll, but that has now fallen to just eight.

There are places available for the eight across the other first and primary schools in the Coquet Partnership.

If the closure is approved, part of Acklington’s catchment area would be incorporated into Broomhill First School’s as the nearest school (1.3 miles) and part would be incorporated into that of Warkworth CofE Primary School as the closest Church of England school offering primary education (2.9 miles).

The council would guarantee transport to these schools for eligible pupils.

A consultation is also currently ongoing over proposals to close Belford Middle School and convert the village first school into a primary school, again due to viability conerns related to falling pupil numbers.

Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “All schools are under increasing pressure in the current system. Rural schools serving isolated and sparse communities, in particular, are facing huge challenges in areas such as funding and school-to-school support.

“Statistics show that non-salaried expenditure in schools range from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of their budget, so schools with smaller pupil numbers have higher maintenance costs in comparison to schools with higher pupil numbers, such as those in rural communities.

“It must be said that there are some exceptional rural schools in our region and they are doing incredibly well despite the circumstances. However, issues such as school closures will ultimately increase if the Government continues to fail to recognise the additional support isolated communities, and the schools within them, need.”