WORRIED parents have called a public meeting tonight over a proposed school closure.
Allendale Middle School in west Northumberland has been earmarked for closure in a regional reshuffle which would see other schools take on the displaced pupils.
The bombshell news was dropped at the weekend and swift moves have been made.
Parish councillor Mark Hydleman will chair the meeting in the Golden Lion pub in Allendale market place at 7pm. A former supply teacher at the school, he said: “It’s more fact-finding at this stage but the situation is worrying.
“I’m a bit upset personally because there has been no consultation with anybody.
“I feel the school has such potential because it has a large catchment area.”
The proposal, to go before Northumberland County Council’s Executive next week, has come out of the blue and created a major stir in the rural south Northumberland town.
The suggestion is to close the 137-pupil school from September 1 2013 – the start of the next academic year.
As part of the Haydon Bridge Partnership, Allendale First School would add pupils aged nine to 11 to its four-to-nine register and take on primary school status.
Haydon Bridge High School would add 11-13-year-olds to its 13-18 register, Haydon Bridge Shaftoe First School would extend its range from three-to-nine to three-to-11, and Whitfield CE School would extend from four-to-nine age range to four-to-11. County councillor Colin Horncastle said: “It came as a shock to me and I’m certainly not defending the county council’s proposals.
“But it’s important to point out that we are only at the consultation period, which goes on for the next 12 weeks.
“The County Council has only put forward one option and what is proposed now may not be what happens then.
“Whatever happens, I will be heavily involved in the consultation and I will do my level best, along with the proper experts, to make sure we get the right education for the children who attend Allendale Middle School.
“Every single thing that the parents are worried about will be talked out during the consultation period, but this is just the start of the process.”
The school, built in 1959, has suffered from falling numbers – it had 216 pupils in 2007 – and financial difficulties.
It had a poor Ofsted report in March 2009, recovered 12 months later, but is now anticipating an “inadequate” Ofsted rating for 2012.
As a consequence, the Department for Education wants the school to be converted to a sponsored Academy.
But county education officers say this could not work unless the other four schools in the area chain also took Academy status – something they are opposed to.
A report to the county Executive says: “Allendale Middle School’s situation is compounded by a very difficult financial situation – likely to be exacerbated over the years by the implementation of new school funding arrangements from April 2013.”