A FLAGSHIP secondary school which made history by becoming the first ever to hold a government cabinet meeting was officially opened yesterday.
Durham University chancellor and world-renowned travel writer Bill Bryson performed the honours at Durham Johnston School in Crossgate Moor.
Durham Johnston was the first to be completed under Durham County Council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, a scheme which is now in doubt following multi-million pound cut-backs announced by the new coalition Government.
The announcement that Durham Johnston was to get a new £25m building to replace the previous two-site school was made by the Labour government in 2005, two weeks before a General Election.
The school moved into the new building last September, and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown held his first Cabinet meeting in a school during a visit by his ministers to Durham in February this year.
Carolyn Roberts, headteacher of the 1,500 pupil school, said yesterday: “This is a great day for Durham Johnston celebrating our new lives together in our beautiful new building after 30 years apart.
“ We are honoured that the Chancellor of the University, Bill Bryson, performed this simple ceremony crowning a year which also saw us make history nationally, by becoming the first school ever to host a Government Cabinet meeting.”
Durham County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, Coun Claire Vasey, said: “Durham Johnston is leading the way on the shape of things to come for education in our county. I am immensely proud of what the pupils, parents, staff, governors and the council have achieved through hard work and dedication.”
Meanwhile doubts are growing about the future of a planned £26m academy due to be built 12 miles away at Consett.
The academy was earmarked by Durham County Council to replace Consett Community Sports College and Moorside Community Technology College.
Councillors have approved outline plans for the academy at a site in Belle Vue, near Medomsley Road, despite public opposition. But the future of the scheme is uncertain because of the emergency Budget, in which Chancellor George Osborne said education spending would have to be cut by 25% in real terms over the next four years.
North West Durham MP Pat Glass has tabled a motion to ask the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, if the funding of £26m allocated by the previous Labour government was still available.
She said: “This is a serious matter for the children and young people in north-west Durham and their families.”
Mrs Glass said she was “alarmed and concerned” the Government was committed to cutting £4.5bn from Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Fund, where the bulk of the funding for Consett Academy was coming from.
But Mrs Glass said she does not expect an answer about the academy’s future until next week. A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The Department for Education has not taken any decisions on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
“The department is reviewing BSF to ensure that when we build schools for the future, we do so in a more cost-effective and efficient fashion.”