Parents voice closure fears

St Cuthbert's RC First School in Amble.
St Cuthbert's RC First School in Amble.

Concerned parents of a school threatened with closure following a disastrous Ofsted report have pleaded for it to stay open.

Consultation is running until February 24 on a proposal to shut the doors of Amble’s St Cuthbert’s RC First School at the end of August.

The motion has been made by the board of governors, and backed by the Diocese of Newcastle and Hexham, after Ofsted ruled it requires special measures.

But at the Thursday, January 9, meeting of Amble Town Council, worried parents said they were desperate to find a solution.

They blamed poor leadership for dragging the school into the mire and called for the Diocese to step in and save the site from closure.

One of the parents, who didn’t want to be named, said: “The people who are running it are no longer capable. If the governors aren’t fit or able to see a way to make the school work, we should replace them.

“The Diocese has to step up and provide the finance and have a leadership change.

“This school is part of the community in the Catholic parish and I think the church has a duty of care to uphold its presence in the community for this and future generations.”

Guidance dictates that schools in special measures can either close or become a sponsored academy.

Currently, the school has 38 pupils, but by September that will drop to 26 in a school with a capacity of 120. This would impact on funding, which is now based almost entirely on pupil numbers.

But another parent said: “Ten children would make the school viable. It feels like people have given up.”

The town council has supported the fight to keep the school open.

Coun Helen Lewis said closure would be a disaster. She urged the Diocese and county council to come up with alternative solutions and look at the broader picture and other ways of running the school.

She said: “I see no harm in trying to come up with alternatives, even a short-term solution, to see if the school can be changed and managed effectively and efficiently.”

There are enough spaces in other first schools in Amble. Practising Catholics would be able to send their children to St Paul’s in Alnwick and receive funding for transport.

But one parent raised concerns about the impact that larger class sizes could have while Coun Jane Dargue said: “To close a faith school and have children travelling miles for a faith education is wrong and sets a bad precedent.”

The final decision rests with the county council’s policy board.