Headteacher rejects school campus share

Wooler First School
Wooler First School

People campaigning to save a rural school are dismayed that governors of another school in the same town are ruling out joining forces in a rescue attempt.

Glendale Middle School is in jeopardy because of funding cuts, falling numbers and its large campus, which needs investment in repairs.

But Wooler First School headteacher Deborah Currans has written to parents of her pupils, rejecting a campus share. She says the governors ‘consider that currently it would not be in the best interests of our school to move to a larger site’.

A couple of parish councillors at the February meeting remarked that they were notimpressed.

The head’s letter sets out the dilemma. The first school was not closing, but would suffer a budget cut of eight per cent – £33,415 – in the next few years. For the next two years it would lose about £5,000 a year.

“This has to be carefully managed, but it does not mean that there is any immediate threat to our school,” she wrote.

The switch in April from funding buildings to funding per pupil would ‘inevitably penalise remote rural areas’ and so the governors would keep the situation under review.

A move to the middle school site had been suggested, she went on, but there were a number of concerns about that idea.

Adapting the building for younger children would mean spending considerable sums.

The county council had made clear to the governors last December that such a move was unlikely to be supported financially. Selling the first school site would not help because the money would go to the county.

“Governors asked the local authority what would happen if we moved to the middle school site (which would be three times the size of our current site) and, as predicted, pupil numbers fell. The local authority categorically stated that we would be on our own – there would be no additional financial support to fund the larger premises.”

The letter added: “The governing body fully supports Glendale Middle School’s efforts to fight for fairer funding for rural schools and we will work closely with their governors to lobby national government for equitable funding. We believe that our children deserve the same level of funding as those in urban areas and those who live in the south of the country.”

Middle school headteacher Ruth Bull’s call to the community to defend it has received an enthusiastic response, with 265 attending a public meeting and volunteers meeting regularly to organise their campaign.