An MP has penned his concerns after the consultation period of a school threatened with closure was extended.
Parents reacted angrily when Durham County Council announced in September that Roseberry College and Sixth Form in Pelton was now so undersubscribed it could shut in August 2014.
The local authority put in place a period of consultation that was due to end next week. But that date has now been extended by a further four weeks, prompting Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, to write a to the council voicing his concerns.
In the letter, addressed to Rachael Shimmin, corporate director of children and adult’s services, Mr Jones said: “I remain very concerned about the issue surrounding capacity in other schools within the area, as from my enquiries it would seem North Durham Academy is the only school with a reasonably large number of available places.
“I would therefore be interested to know exactly what existing capacity is available in other local schools and how this compares with the projections for future intakes at Roseberry.”
The letter also went on to raise concerns about transport, the potential loss of a well-used community facility, and also questioned the financial issues.
Mr Jones said: “Finally, I remain unconvinced by the issues raised about the finances of the school and the size of the deficit it is projected to be running in the coming years. I am aware that much of this was based on figures from a year when the school had extra, unexpected expenses and therefore does not provide an accurate picture of the school’s finances.”
Caroline O’Neill, Durham County Council’s head of education, said: “We strongly refute claims that this consultation is based on inaccurate information and stand by our reasons for examining the viability of the school’s future.
“Despite capacity for 1,000 pupils, the school currently has just over 300 pupils on roll and, with a significantly falling roll, the school’s sustainability has to be questioned. The financial pressures the school is under also mean it will be highly challenging for the school to set a balanced budget and provide a broad and balanced secondary curriculum in future.
“That said, it is important to stress that no decision has yet been made on the future of the school. We will fully consider all of the responses we receive during the current consultation before deciding whether it is appropriate to move to the next stage of the process. If it is decided to further consider a proposal to close the school, we will issue a statutory notice, which offers a further six-week period.”