Praise for Northumberland school staff during coronavirus crisis

School staff in Northumberland have been thanked by a leading councillor for all of their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 3:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 7:11 pm
A screenshot of the meeting taking place

The comments came on Tuesday May 12 as Northumberland County Council held public meetings for the first time since the week starting March 9, with the gatherings held remotely and live-streamed on the authority’s YouTube channel.

Addressing the family and children’s services committee, Coun Wayne Daley, the deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, put on record a ‘massive thank-you to all of our schools, teachers, support staff, cleaners, kitchen staff – everyone who has come together to make sure we have an offer for our key workers’ children and vulnerable children who are physically in school and also providing homework for other children’.

“There was a very small window of time for schools to deal with this and they have absolutely stepped up,” he added, noting that there were 147 schools and alternative providers open the day before (Monday, May 11), with 1,376 young people attending.

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He repeated his thanks at the cabinet meeting later on Tuesday, where he also praised the youth service, social workers and the ‘hidden heroes’ at children’s homes.

Coun Susan Dungworth, leader of the Labour group, added her gratitude on behalf of the opposition to ‘all staff who have kept services going, who aren’t always seen by the public’.

She also called on the council to ensure that schools are prepared to reopen, which the Prime Minister has said may begin on June 1. She questioned whether it makes sense for Year 6 to return in those areas of Northumberland which still have a three-tier system, as those pupils will not be transitioning to secondary school.

Coun Daley said that there is ongoing dialogue with Westminster and the county’s MPs as well as with headteachers.

On the agenda at both meetings was the proposed closure of West Woodburn First School, on the A68 to the south of Otterburn, from this summer.

The school currently has no pupils, as the three attending at the start of the academic year all moved elsewhere for the start of the spring term in January.

Although there was some opposition during the four informal and one statutory consultations, the council’s conclusion was that without the support of local parents, the school is not viable.

The committee supported the recommendation before the closure was signed off by the cabinet.

Coun Daley said: “It’s a difficult report for the reason that it’s never easy to close a school, but it’s a process we have had to follow not least because there are no pupils at the school.”

Coun John Riddle, who is also the local ward member, added: “I think the county council has bent over backwards to try to keep West Woodburn school open.

“There was a considerable outcry at first when talking about reorganisation and this was thought to be the way forward, but parents have voted with their feet. Realistically, there’s no prospect of more children in the near future.”

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