Proposed closure of school causes worry

Locals protesting against the closure of Belford Middle School.
 Picture by Jane Coltman
Locals protesting against the closure of Belford Middle School. Picture by Jane Coltman

Parish councillors want to maintain the status quo on the Belford schools front or for as many children as possible to be educated in the village.

Members discussed the issue at their meeting last Thursday evening following the shock announcement in January that the governors had proposed closing St Mary’s CE Middle School this summer.

They agreed that their response to the consultation will be that they want to maintain the status quo or, if that’s not possible, they want to keep as many children as possible in Belford.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, who is the co-chairman of the newly-formed Belford Schools Action Group (BSAG), explained what the campaign group and was planning to do following a consultation event at St Mary’s last Monday.
He said that the group has three main aims with the first being to delay or extend the consultation because the current proposal is to shut the doors for good in August.

The second is to get the first and middle schools to work together to see what can be done in terms of sharing resources, while the third is to come up with a final solution.

Chairman, Coun Brenda Stanton, said: “The reason for keeping two schools is that we need people to come and live and stay in Belford so that the community stays vibrant.

“A bit of me says that having a very good primary school is probably the way to go.”

Coun Tracy Bell added: “The middle school has a very good reputation for special-needs children and there are lots of special-needs children there now. People are coming from Alnwick, Lowick, Berwick to our school so it must have a good reputation.”

However, Coun Renner-Thompson did point out that while ‘it seems strange to us because we know it has a good reputation’, but the school is not performing well in terms of Ofsted and its SATS results, which makes any attempt to keep it open more difficult.

Coun Reg Carruthers said: “It will kill the village if the school closes.”