Allendale Middle School improvement 'too late'

Allendale Middle School in Northumberland is at the centre of a running controversy over closure plans following a poor summer Ofsted report.

Allendale Middle School. Main school building and sports hall

IMPROVEMENTS at a closure-threatened school have almost certainly come too late to save it.

Allendale Middle School in Northumberland is at the centre of a running controversy over closure plans following a poor summer Ofsted report.

But an interim Ofsted inspection has revealed that the school is making reasonable progress towards the removal of special measures.

The inspection, carried out over two days at the end of November, is a ray of light for the beleaguered school, which faces closure under Government Ofsted-related legislation.

A new interim executive board has been appointed, but with a decision on the school’s future due early in 2013, the timescale is strongly against any U-turn.

County councillor Colin Horncastle said yesterday: “If the Government said we had 18 months or two years, then we could save the school.

“Already there has been a massive difference in the school, but the council executive has to make a decision by late January.

“That period of time does not fit in with the timescale we would need. Even though there is an improvement, it is highly unlikely it could improve enough to the level required in the time available.

“It’s a pity. I’m more than sure that if we were given enough time, the school could be saved. But we haven’t got that time.”

Ofsted inspector Margaret Farrow says in the latest report that under headteacher Susan Hickey there have been significant improvements in standards in many areas, including teaching of English.

She says: “Discussions with students and records of observations undertaken by the school indicate the quality of teaching is improving.

“This is beginning to make a positive difference to students’ progress in most classes.”

The three-month public consultation on the school’s future ends today, when all reply papers must be lodged with the county council.

The council executive is expected to meet to make its decision on January 28.

The proposal is to close the 100-pupil school by September 2013, with pupils allocated around other schools in the Haydon Bridge partnership.

Sponsored academy status is a further option but parents’ prime concern has been to save the school in some form. Already, however, 40 pupils have left the school in the current academic year.

Allendale parish councillor Marc Hydleman, a qualified teacher who has previously worked at the school, believes there have been weaknesses in the public consultation.

He said: “The consultation has not been a fair and thorough process and we have not been properly informed of all the possible options.

“If my concerns are correct then I feel that the whole consultation is flawed and cannot be considered as valid.”

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