STAFF and pupils at a successful school are celebrating after plans to close it were formally shelved.
Durham County Council’s cabinet was told that funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF) for a new £25m academy in Durham City has been stopped by the Government.
The cabinet says it would now be “educationally unsound” to agree the closure of schools in Belmont and Gilesgate, Durham City.
Although Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods described the decision as “a tragedy for education in Durham”, staff at the successful Belmont School Community Arts College are delighted by the decision.
A statement issued through the union NASUWT said: “As a union we very much regret the Government’s decision to scrap proposed building of new schools.
“We are delighted to learn, however, that a decision has been made to scrap the proposed Belmont Academy which would have involved the closure of two local schools, Belmont School Community Art College and Durham Gilesgate Sports College.
“There was massive opposition to this proposal from parents, students, staff and Belmont Community, with 85% of respondents in the initial consultation against the proposal.
“We are delighted that these successful local schools will now be allowed to continue serving their local communities and ensuring high standards of achievement for the young children in their care.”
A year ago, Belmont staff staged two one-day strikes in protest at the plan to close their school and form an academy.
The proposed academy, co-sponsored by Durham County Council and the Durham Excellence in Education Partnership, led by Durham University, was scheduled to open in existing buildings in 2012 before a purpose-built site opened in 2014.
Now county council officers are to be asked to work with Belmont, Durham Gilesgate and partners to find a solution to address the small number of pupils aged 11 to 16 attending Durham Gilesgate. They will also look at the “educational challenges in the area”.
The cabinet was told that there is no money available to build a new school and to go ahead with the closure proposals would result in a new academy in existing buildings on three different sites.
Coun Claire Vasey, cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the government has stopped the funding for our BSF programme. We had been expecting to benefit by more than £500m for our secondary education building programme.
“This particular project aimed to support educational transformation in the Durham area.
“Now that we can no longer expect this funding, we will have to seriously re-think how to ensure that young people’s education in this area is not seriously disadvantaged.”