Schools shake-up in Belford moves closer

Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford at the end of the last school year. There are now just 41 students. Picture by Jane Coltman
Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford at the end of the last school year. There are now just 41 students. Picture by Jane Coltman

The closure of the middle school in Belford and the conversion of the first school into a primary is set to move a step closer next week.

Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet is likely to agree at its meeting on Tuesday that the proposals should go ahead, sparking a statutory consultation. A final decision will be made in February.

In September, councillors agreed to support an informal consultation on the closure of St Mary’s CofE Middle School next summer and the addition of Years 5 and 6 to Belford First School to become a primary school from September 2018, as requested by the governing bodies of both schools.

Initially, governors at St Mary’s were looking to close in summer 2017, based on a predicted fall in pupil numbers from 98 to 67 which placed the school ‘beyond financial viability’. The number on roll now is just 41.

Worried parents called on governors to delay the proposed closure and in March, we reported that a reprieve had been granted for future options to be considered.

The school had been operating under capacity for some time, but the further decrease is a knock-on effect of the switch to a two-tier system in the Alnwick Partnership, with the Duchess’s Community High School now taking Year 7 and Year 8 pupils.