COUNCIL bosses are seeking to press ahead with the proposed closure of a Northumberland school, despite pleas for it to be given a reprieve.
Officers at Northumberland County Council are advising the process which proposes closure of Guide Post Middle School should continue, ignoring calls from parents and the local MP for the site to be given time to improve.
The authority has also said academy status - something parents have urged the council to explore - “is not in the best long-term educational interests of the pupils” at Guide Post.
Parents last night reacted with anger to the council’s stance, accusing the authority of trying to rush closure.
As previously reported by The Journal, Guide Post was earmarked for closure after being one of 17 visited by Ofsted last October following concerns over the standard of education in the county. Inspectors found it to be inadequate and placed it in special measures, saying leadership were not capable of securing improvement.
The county then began consultation on its closure from August, with Stakeford, Ringway and Mowbray first schools to retain children until the age of 11 instead of nine as they do currently. Bedlington High would then take them at the age of 11.
The Save Guide Post Middle School From Closure action group was formed in the wake of the council plans. Last month, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery called on the council to extend the consultation process, saying Guide Post should be given time to improve.
Now, however, the council has produced a report to its policy board which reveals that of the 3,554 consultation documents sent out, only 91 were returned. Of these, 31 were in favour of the proposals with 55 against. An e-petition with 352 signatures against the plans was also submitted along with a written version with 474.
The report advises that the original plan be stuck to. Its recommendations state: “there is no realistic prospect of maintaining the status quo by allowing Guide Post Middle School additional time to be able to demonstrate improvement.”
The report adds: “A sponsored academy solution is not in the best long-term educational interests of the pupils in the Guide Post area.”
And it concludes: “The only viable solution . . . is to adopt the proposals put out to consultation.”
Last night, Joanne Graham of the action group, said: “Northumberland County Council have tried to rush the closure and to facilitate that have misled public on the options available and in particular the timescales.
“This has presented an inaccurate picture, appeared to be a ‘done deal’ thereby giving the impression that it’s not worth responding to the consultation. Even though Government guidelines are clear that time should be allowed for schools to demonstrate improvement, Northumberland County Council have kept quiet on that.”