‘Not many options’ for school future

Students at Netherton Northside First School celebrate their Ofsted report last year.
Students at Netherton Northside First School celebrate their Ofsted report last year.
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Councillors agreed that there are not many options other than closure for a rural north Northumberland first school.

As we reported last week, the governing body at Netherton Northside First School, to the north-west of Rothbury, has proposed it should close this summer. There are three alternative schools nearby, two of which are within five miles.

Northumberland County Councillor’s decision-making cabinet is recommended to agree that consultation takes place on this proposal at its meeting this afternoon.

Prior to that, it was debated by the members of the county council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

Andy Johnson, the county council’s director of education, explained that the school currently has just three pupils.

“In September, we believe it will have two pupils on roll and we understand there will be some changes to senior leadership at the school in the near future,” he continued. “The predictions are that the numbers will not rise despite the best efforts of the leadership and the governing body to promote the school and attract new pupils.”

Following a question from Coun Gordon Stewart about why a previous discussion on closure, early in 2017, had not led anywhere, members heard that the governors wanted one more go at attracting new pupils to the school, but that had not been successful.

Coun Trevor Cessford said: “There are sometimes accusations that things are pushed through too quickly, but they did try to give it another year.

“There’s a list of all the things they tried to do, but it doesn’t leave you with many options, unfortunately.”

The chairman, Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, said: “It’s always a shame when a small school closes.”

Reorganised set-up in Belford set for go-ahead

Councillors had no comments to make as the proposed closure of Belford’s middle school reached the final stage.

Members of the county council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee had already discussed the issue twice before, meaning there was little left to say at Tuesday’s meeting.

It is now even more likely that the decision-making cabinet will later today approve the proposal to close St Mary’s CofE Middle School this summer and the conversion of Belford First School into an age-two-to-11 primary from September.

Original, standalone proposals to close St Mary’s last summer sparked protests and calls for a reprieve, which was granted to enable this joint proposal to be developed.

The middle school is an unintended victim of the switch to a two-tier system in the Alnwick Partnership as St Mary’s which already had a falling roll, has seen a large number of pupils leave at 11 to go to the Duchess’s Community High School.