We back primary school but there are some issues, says council

Councillors in Belford have agreed their response to the consultation on setting up a primary school and closing the village's middle school.

Saturday, 30th September 2017, 15:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 14:36 pm
Pupils at St Mary's CofE Middle School in Belford at the end of last term. Picture by Jane Coltman

Members back extending the age range at the first school as they accept the middle school is not viable. However, the parish council will raise concerns about potential transport issues related to the catchment areas as well as question the merits of using the first-school site rather than the middle-school plot for the new primary school.

In January, governors at St Mary’s CofE Middle School told parents of a move to close, based on a fall in pupil numbers putting the school ‘beyond financial viability’.

Currently, there are just 40 students, an even lower figure than expected, in a school which has capacity for 120.

It had been operating under capacity for some time, but the further decrease 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.

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Earlier this month, the county council’s cabinet agreed to allow an informal consultation to take place, as requested by both schools’ governing bodies, on closing St Mary’s next summer and adding Years 5 and 6 to Belford First School from September 2018.

If the changes went ahead, due to Belford being in the Berwick catchment area, pupils would only get free transport if they went to Berwick Middle School in Years 7 and 8, followed by Berwick Academy.

The parish council feels this is unfair and is calling for parents to have the choice between sending their children to Alnwick or Berwick, as is the case for Wooler students.

Members also discussed which site would be more appropriate, given size and parking problems, but the county council only owns the first-school site, the Diocese owns St Mary’s.