Allendale Middle School closure opponents call for schools to join forces

OPPONENTS of proposals to close a failing school in Northumberland are calling for a federation with a neighbouring school.

Parents Susan Robson (left) and Clare Shield with councillor Colin Horncastle

OPPONENTS of proposals to close a failing school in Northumberland are calling for a federation with a neighbouring school.

A group set up in response to the recent proposal to close Allendale Middle School are calling for it to be placed in federation with the village’s first school.

Northumberland County Council recently announced it was seeking to close the 137-pupil school, which is suffering from falling pupil numbers and financial problems.

A 12-week consultation was launched which could see the school closed by September 2013.

The proposal has sparked unrest among residents who set up an action group to fight it, amid fears of a “back-door” introduction of a two-tier education system within the 18-school Haydon Bridge Partnership.

The school was recently described as inadequate by Ofsted, leaving council bosses with two options, either closure or a change to academy status.

But now members of the action group have come up with the idea of forming a federation between the school and Allendale County First.

The idea, discussed at an open meeting in the village, would see the schools run by one headteacher on one site, but sharing facilities.

The group believes the model, which it is comparing to that in operation for four to 13-year-olds at Haltwhistle, would be of benefit given that the first school has been deemed outstanding by Ofsted.

It also claims it would be cost effective for the county council, given that the authority would not receive money from the Government if an academy was formed.

Group member Marc Hydleman, a parish councillor and teacher, last night said: “There is obviously a lot of concern from people, they are looking at ways that the school could be saved in one form or another.

“One of the things they might be looking at is federating the first and middle school into one campus. Almost everybody seemed to favour the federation scheme rather than an academy.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The consultation is currently taking place. All options that are put forward as part of this process will be considered and their viability assessed.”

Concerns about the impact on Haydon Bridge High School were also voiced at the meeting, given that it is served by the middle school.

Questions were also asked over how the Allendale school has been managed by the county council given its recent Ofsted report, and the adequacy of the consultation documents.

The proposed closure is to be discussed at a meeting of Allendale Parish Council tonight in the village hall at 7pm.

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