ONE of the region’s best performing schools is closing its library because of the costs involved in its £24m new building.
Durham Johnston School was the first secondary in County Durham to benefit from Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funding.
In September 2009, it opened its £23.9m state-of-the-art building in Framwellgate Moor, but from next month its librarian will be out of a job and there will be no library resource for its 1,500 students.
Headteacher Carolyn Roberts says that commitments following the building programme has left the school’s finances “difficult to manage”.
She added: “Following our rebuilding project a couple of years ago we have been left with unexpected costs but in order to protect the classrooms and teaching posts we have had to look at making cuts elsewhere.
“This is a very sad decision. Our library was not underused and we have got a lot of books and we haven’t had the chance to work out what will happen to these resources.
“We have to balance the budget and it is very hard but we have to look where we can make savings with non-teaching posts.”
Mrs Roberts said that as well as the librarian, two members of the school’s learning support team had chosen to take voluntary redundancy.
She said: “I have written to parents to keep them informed of what is happening but it is always difficult to communicate issues regarding personnel while the consultation process is still ongoing.” The school, which was rated outstanding in an Ofsted inspection published earlier this month, has around 100 teaching staff and approximately 60 non-teaching posts.
Mrs Roberts confirmed a “handful of non-teaching posts” could be lost through voluntary redundancy or early retirement but she stressed she could not go into detail over individual jobs.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for Durham City and an associate school governor at Durham Johnston, said: “Labour’s shadow education team have been working hard to show the Government’s professed commitment to education funding is certainly not all that it could be.
“I have asked questions to Ministers to find out how much money they expect the Pupil Premium to bring to schools in Durham but so far I have yet to get an answer.”
A regional spokesman for the National Union of Teachers added: “It is a shame the school has had to take such drastic measures.
“The library is a major resource for pupils but we can understand a decision like this will not have been taken lightly and we appreciate the headteacher’s priority to protect teaching staff.”
Durham Johnston is one of the best performing secondary schools in the region with a pass rate of 83% at GCSE, whilst 71% of pupils leave with five or more A* to C grades including English and maths.
The library closure is not the first setback since the new build opened. In October, a hi-tech computer system installed by a private company had to be scrapped after just 18 months.
The school is holding an open evening for parents who would like to discuss “the future direction of Johnston”.
It will be held on March 31 at 6pm in the main school hall.
We have to balance the budget and it is very hard but we have to look where we can make savings