Proposal to create primary school in north Northumberland village

Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford at the end of last term. Picture by Jane Coltman
Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford at the end of last term. Picture by Jane Coltman

A consultation is set to be launched on closing the middle school in Belford and extending the age range at the first school to become a primary.

In January this year, governors at St Mary’s CofE Middle School told parents of a move to close this summer, based on a predicted fall in pupil numbers from 98 to 67 which places the school ‘beyond financial viability’.

The school had been operating under capacity for some time, but the further decrease in pupil numbers was a knock-on effect of the switch to a two-tier system in the Alnwick Partnership, which means the Duchess's Community High School now takes Year 7 and Year 8 pupils.

Worried parents called on governors to delay the proposed closure and in March, we reported that a reprieve had been granted and that the school would stay open while options for the future are considered.

Now, a report to today's meeting of Northumberland County Council's family and children's services committee and Tuesday's meeting of the decision-making cabinet indicates that a consultation is set to start on the closure of St Mary's next summer and the addition of Years 5 and 6 to Belford First School to become a primary school from September 2018.

If the cabinet agrees to the consultation, which has been requested by the governing bodies of both schools, a document would be made available for a period of six weeks. Council officers and the governing body would hold meetings and a consultation event for staff, governors, parents and other interested parties within the local area during the consultation period.

This informal consultation would have to be followed by a statutory consultation before a final decision on the proposed changes could be made.

The report adds: 'It would be proposed that pupils in Year 5 at St Mary’s in August 2018 would transfer to the roll of Belford Primary School (as it would be). The other feeder first school to St Mary’s is Lowick CE VC First School, which also feeds to Berwick Middle School, therefore for continuity, it would be proposed that Years 6 and 7 at St Mary’s in August 2018 would transfer to Berwick Middle School into Years 7 and 8 in September 2018. Year 8 in St Mary’s in August 2018 would transfer as normal into Year 9 at a local high school in September 2018.

'It would be proposed that pupils in Year 4 in Belford First School in August 2018 would remain on the roll of the school as they transfer into Year 5 in September 2018. The headteachers at both schools have in any event agreed to work closely so that any transition between the two schools is as seamless as possible.'