Consultation on Allendale Middle School 'confusing'

CONSULTATION papers issued to parents over the possible closure of a Northumberland middle school have been branded confusing and misleading.

Allendale Middle School. Main school building and sports hall

CONSULTATION papers issued to parents over the possible closure of a Northumberland middle school have been branded confusing and misleading.

Anti-closure campaigner Maggie Keyte of Allendale has fired off a 28-point reply to Northumberland County Council chief executive Steve Stewart condemning the way in which questions are presented on the potential closure of the town’s middle school.

She complains parents are being given only a choice between closure and academy status for the 137-pupil school in two tick-box questions.

The council asks parents to choose between the two options only – and Mrs Keyte says: “It is my considered view that neither question can be answered.

“Whereas tick boxes are provided for ‘yes’ responses and ‘no’ responses, no tick box is provided for ‘neither of the above’ responses.”

The 12-week council consultation, due to close on Christmas Eve, follows a damning Ofsted report into the under-performing school.

The local authority plans a reshuffle of schools in the Haydon Bridge partnership, but the move has raised a storm of protest. Objectors staging a series of public meetings say the council is introducing two-tier education through the back door.

But education chiefs have denied that and say their proposal is necessary in the light of the Ofsted report.

Mrs Keyte has copied her letter to a number of leading figures, including Hexham MP Guy Opperman and council leader Jeff Reid, who were last month at loggerheads over the issue.

Local county councillor Colin Horncastle said: “There is nothing in there for a third option, and I feel there should be a third option.

“One other option, which was brought up at last week’s meeting, was to federate the middle school and the first school. It would save costs, with one governing body, one headteacher, and a better use of teacher resources.

“Originally, there was only one option presented by the local authority – and that was closure of the school. But the council was then obliged to give information on academy status.”

Council officers are set to meet parents at the school tomorrow before another public meeting next week.

Clare Sheild , a parent playing a leading role in the protests, said: “Maggie is obviously wanting answers. She has questioned a lot of points within the council’s consultation document, which has only come out to parents this week.”

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said the papers do give consultees the chance to make further suggestions outside closure-or-academy limits.

She 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.”

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