Rural first school at risk of being axed

Students at Netherton Northside First School celebrate the recent Ofsted report.
Students at Netherton Northside First School celebrate the recent Ofsted report.

Another rural school in north Northumberland is under threat with a consultation on its closure to be launched next week.

The governing body at Netherton Northside First School, to the north-west of Rothbury, has proposed it should close this summer.

Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet is recommended to agree that consultation takes place on the proposal at its meeting next Thursday.

A report to councillors says that the ‘very small, rural school within the Morpeth Partnership has had falling pupil numbers for some time and has been surviving on the edge of viability’.

Nonetheless, in April last year, we reported that it had chalked up an impressive Ofsted report, retaining its good rating.

However, back then, there were seven pupils; now, there are just three.

One of these is in Year 4 and two are in Year 3, meaning there are no children in the lower end of the school. As the Year 4 child will transfer to a middle or primary school in September 2018, there is a possibility there may be only two children on roll at that time.

There is one prospective child in the catchment who could join the school, but that would not occur until September 2019.

The report concedes ‘there are currently no issues with standards at the school’, but adds: ‘However, in light of the school’s reducing budget, the governing body now believes that with so few children on roll, and with little prospect of numbers increasing significantly in the near future, it will become increasingly difficult to sustain the broad and balanced curriculum required by the National Curriculum.’

The nearest alternative first schools are in Thropton, Rothbury and Harbottle.