Funding cuts spark school closure concerns

Schools in north Northumberland could be put on the ‘path to closure’, following a Government review into education funding, it has been claimed.

The Secretary of State has announced the final details of the reform of the school revenue system for 2013-14, which it says will help to improve transparency, quality and choice for young people and their families.

But indicative figures released by Northumberland County Council, as part of a consultation document, show that some schools could see tens of thousands of pounds swiped from their budgets – in some cases, more than £100,000.

The majority of middle schools in north Northumberland stand to lose money, including St Paul’s RCVA in Alnwick, which could see a loss of £139,488, while the town’s Lindisfarne Middle School is facing a chop of £104,663. Glendale Middle School in Wooler could lose £112,609, Belford’s St Mary’s C of E could lose £77,282 and Seahouses Middle School faces a £68,056 reduction, and Dr Thomlinson C of E Middle School could lose £71,804.

Amble’s James Calvert Spence College – Acklington Road, could have £78,584 slashed from its budget.

However, some schools would see increases, including Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School and JCSC – South Avenue.

MP Sir Alan Beith has urged the Government to consider the needs of rural schools and is ‘very concerned’ about the impact on the long-term financial viability of some schools, if no additional support can be found.

“I am worried about the unintended consequences of changes,” he said.

Some first schools will also face losses, including Seahouses First School, which is facing a £53,715 chop, while £43,781 could be lost from Rothbury First School’s coffers. Other losers include Wooler and Longhoughton C of E first schools.

Coun Steven Bridgett, ward member for Rothbury and Coquetdale, said the reform could do ‘a lot of damage’.

“The current formula that is being proposed for rural Northumberland has the potential to set many of our rural schools on the potential path to closure,” he said.

A county council spokeswoman said: “The Government requires that we will apply a minimum funding guarantee to restrict the amount of money that each school can lose in the first two years of the new system.”

The authority is consulting with schools and will work with any who may lose ‘significant amounts of money’ to help them come up with ‘appropriate solutions to preserve education within their communities’.

The consultation runs until September 7.