Reprieve for closure-threatened Northumberland middle school

Bellingham Middle School
Bellingham Middle School

Northumberland County Council’s decision to close a rural middle school has been rejected by a Government-appointed adjudicator.

However, no details of the decision to prevent the closure of Bellingham Middle School have been published yet.

This is because schools adjudicator Tom Brooke, who attended a public meeting at the school earlier this month, wanted to let parents know of his decision before the admissions deadline next Wednesday (October 31), but his full report is still to come.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) helps to clarify the legal position on admissions policies in schools, often when differences arise between schools and local authorities.

A statement on the school’s website reads: ‘We have been informed that the OSA has rejected the decision to close Bellingham Middle School.

‘We have been asked to let all parents and carers know about this decision ahead of the admissions deadline of October 31.

‘Thank you to all those who have supported Bellingham Middle School and a three-tier system for local children in this rural area. Your continued support will make all the difference in the future.’

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “We note the decision of the adjudicator. We also note that it currently does not come with any additional information or rationale for this decision about Bellingham Middle School, so it is difficult to comment further at this stage.”

Bellingham Middle School was set to be the sole victim of a major educational overhaul in the west of Northumberland, following a decision by the county council’s cabinet in July.

It is part of a switch to a two-tier system in the Haydon Bridge Partnership which also saw councillors approve the extension of the age range to form primary schools at Bellingham, Greenhaugh, Kielder, Otterburn and Wark first schools from next September.

It was accepted that travel times are a concern and a working group was to be set up to oversee this. The numbers of pupils affected meant it could be dealt with on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, said at the time that the Bellingham decision was not easy, but there will be £1.3million invested in converting the first school into a primary and moving the North Tynies Children’s Centre into the main school buildings.

Back in May, the council had agreed to step in to save Haydon Bridge High School, which is in special measures, following the withdrawal of Bright Tribe Trust as academy sponsor.

The council spokeswoman added: “The council’s primary focus is on delivering excellence in education.

“The decision to convert first schools to primary schools in September 2019 is aimed at securing a sustainable model of education for the Haydon Bridge partnership – and there are no plans for this decision to change.

“We are contacting all parents with detailed information about their options.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service