Northumberland's West Woodburn First School faces closure

Closure is looming for a first school in rural Northumberland which currently has no children.

By Ben O'Connell
Saturday, 14th March 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 7:14 pm
West Woodburn. Picture c/o Google Streetview
West Woodburn. Picture c/o Google Streetview

Northumberland County Council’s cabinet agreed at its meeting on Tuesday March 10 to carry out formal consultation on the potential closure of West Woodburn First School, on the A68 to the south of Otterburn.

This publication of a statutory proposal follows four previous consultations on the school’s future.

There were just three pupils attending West Woodburn during the autumn, but they all moved elsewhere for the start of the spring term in January, with the cabinet member for children’s services, Coun Wayne Daley, describing it as a ‘mothballed school’.

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The latest five-week informal consultation received 10 responses, with nine of them supporting the school’s closure.

The one that didn’t was from the governing body of The River Rede Federation, which continues to back the school converting to a primary.

However, as Sue Aviston, the council’s head of school organisation and resources, pointed out at last week’s meeting of the family and children’s services committee, this proposal was previously consulted on and wasn’t supported by the local community.

The report to councillors said: ‘Former parents of pupils in West Woodburn and members of the community have now expressed in the most recent consultations that they do not support the federation between Otterburn and West Woodburn, and have made it clear that they would not send their children to the school.

‘There are no applications for a place in Reception class at West Woodburn for September 2020 and the lack of attendance of any potential parents at the scheduled meeting on January 9 is a concern.’

Outside the meeting, Coun Daley said: “While theoretically the school could continue to remain open, in reality, given that there are no children on roll and the lack of support for the current arrangements, it no longer appears reasonable for it to do so.”

The statutory consultation will run for four weeks, from Thursday, March 12, to Thursday, April 9, with the final decision set to be made by the cabinet in May.