Northumberland town set for hundreds of new homes, but to lose school

Amble in Northumberland is set for hundreds of new homes, but one less school for new children to go to

Rachel McGarvey with Daughters Olivia (4) Megan (9) and Maya (11)
Rachel McGarvey with Daughters Olivia (4) Megan (9) and Maya (11)

A Northumberland seaside town looks set to lose one of its schools ahead of the potential arrival of hundreds of new families.

Moves are being made to close Amble’s St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided First School following a damning Ofsted report and a fall in pupil numbers.

The plan comes at the same time as Persimmon Homes has cleared the final hurdle in its bid to build 250 homes in the town, while another 48-property scheme has also recently been approved.

One parent from the town who is fighting the school closure last night raised questions over the logic of allowing the site to close with the potential for a massive influx of families with young children once the houses are built.

St Cuthbert’s was one of 17 visited by Ofsted in October last year amid concerns over the standard of education in the county.

Inspectors found it to be inadequate in three of four areas and placed it in special measures, requiring it either to close or become an academy.

At the same time, governors at the school reported a gradual fall in pupil numbers, to just 38, 15 of whom are to leave in the summer. No children have been registered for a place in reception class for September.

The school faced the prospect of reduced funding due to the low pupil numbers and having to cut staff.

The governors, following consultation with the dioceses, asked Northumberland County Council to begin consultation on closure.

The move sparked parent Rachel McGarvey, who has two children go to the school, Megan nine, and Olivia, four, to set up a petition calling for St Cuthbert’s to be saved. 167 people signed it in three days.

Last night, Mrs McGarvey, a 40 -year-old stay-at-home mum and student who lives at Robsons Way, questioned the proposal to close the school when the new homes planned there are built could be bringing more families into Amble.

Persimmon was given reserved matters planning permission for its 250 homes on land near Marks Bridge on Thursday night, with another 48 homes on close to Dandsfield Square approved in February.

Mrs McGarvey questioned whether the town’s two other first schools would be able to cope with the children from St Cuthbert’s, let alone those from the new houses.

She said: “It is just a great shame, we are building more houses in Amble. There are 300 new houses.

“Is there the capacity in other schools in Amble? They keep saying they will make capacity but that is no good for anybody. It might harm children into the mix.

“I think they are short sighted to close it.”

Chairman of governors at the school Paul Claridge said the potential influx of children into Amble would come too late for St Cuthbert’s.

“The new homes have not even been started yet, they have to be built.

“There may be children coming in, there may be children born in the future. It is all going to be too late.”

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