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Moving forward on closure of another middle school

Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford.
Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford.

The closure of the middle school in Belford, with the first school being converted to a primary, now looks likely after the second, formal stage of consultation was launched.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet unanimously agreed that the proposals should go ahead, sparking a statutory consultation. A final decision will be made in February.

In September, councillors agreed to support an informal consultation on the closure of St Mary’s CofE Middle School next summer and the addition of Years 5 and 6 to Belford First School to become a primary school from September 2018.

Original, standalone proposals to close St Mary’s this summer, sparked by a fall in pupil numbers placing the school ‘beyond financial viability’ were put on hold after pleas from the community for more time to consider options for the future.

Given this reprieve, as Andy Johnson, the interim director of children’s services, said at Tuesday’s meeting, ‘there is a high degree of agreement among the community in Belford, including the governing bodies of both schools and the Diocese, about the need to permit the publication of the statutory proposal’.

It comes as the publication of a recent short Ofsted inspection show that St Mary’s continues to be a good school.

Chairman of governors Martin Straker said: “As chairman of governors, I am delighted to be able to share our Ofsted report that states we have retained our status as a good school. I am immensely proud of the efforts of our headteacher and staff, but most of all our brilliant children.

“Despite the difficult position we currently find ourselves in, this bears out the governors’ commitment to continue to provide the best possible education for our children in real partnership with the Diocese and the local authority.”