STAFF at a closure-threatened middle school are facing redundancy – even if it becomes an academy.
An adverse Ofsted report last year has led Allendale Middle School in Northumberland to an autumn 2013 closure proposal from the education authority.
The only alternative to closure under Government regulations is for the school to take on academy status, though there have so far been few indications of potential academy sponsors coming forward.
Paul Moffat, Northumberland County Council’s corporate director of children’s services, says redundancies are likely whichever route the school takes.
The school, now being run by an Interim Executive Board, has 14 full- and part-time teachers plus other administrative staff.
Mr Moffat, in written answers to questions from the community, says: “Due to the difficult financial situation of the school, it is likely that the IEB would need to make a number of redundancies, whether or not the school converts to become a sponsored academy.
“In the event that the middle school closes, then all staff at the school would become ‘at risk’ of redundancy.”
Since the announcement of the closure plans last September, the local community has fought a fierce battle to save the 50-year-old school.
After a 12-week consultation, which ended on Christmas Eve, the county council executive is expected to make a decision on January 28.
Details of the council officers’ report and recommendation to the executive will be posted on the council’s website on January 18.
Community action groups recruited Hexham MP Guy Opperman to seek answers to a lengthy list of their questions from the local education authority.
In his response, seen by The Journal, Mr Moffat reveals the school roll has now dropped to 102 pupils from last year’s level of 137.
And although the school is showing signs of improvement under new head teacher Susan Hickey since the damning 2012 Ofsted report, it would usually take five terms for a school to come out of special measures.
For Allendale, closure has been proposed for September 2013, with pupils being re-allocated to other schools in the North Pennines Learning Partnership.
Mr Moffat says although the council has asked the Secretary of State for alternatives to the closure and academy options, the official response is that one of those options “is the desired outcome at Government level”.
Suggestions have been put forward that Allendale Middle School could become a primary by extending its pupil age range downwards, or even take in a full four-to-13 age range.
Mr Moffat says: “Any alternative proposals that are able to demonstrate that they would provide better educational outcomes for pupils within a financially viable framework than the proposals put forward by the council may be recommended to the Executive for further consultation.
“Consultation is not a referendum and the executive will not be recommended to consult on a proposal based only on the fact that it is the most popular choice.”
Mr Moffat also dismisses claims that Allendale Middle School would have to be retained if any of the partnership schools rejected the LEA proposals.
And he also rejects suggestions that the consultation was not valid due to “neither consistent nor totally accurate” information allegedly provided by officers.
“Officers consider that the consultation fully meets legislative requirements and is valid,” Mr Moffat states.