CAMPAIGNERS battling to save a south Northumberland village school faced a new setback last night.
A county council committee voted unanimously to recommend closure of Allendale Middle School to Northumberland County Council’s executive, which meets on Monday.
The family and children’s services scrutiny committee said closure of the 107- pupil school was the only sustainable option following a bad Ofsted report last year. Although the committee is not the decision-making body, its unanimous recommendation is likely to carry some weight with the executive.
Two options – A for academy status and B for closure in September – have been put forward by education officers following a 12-week public consultation. Committee vice-chairman Robert Arckless said: “My honest instinct is that option B is the only one that is sustainable and that will meet the issues that have been raised.
“I can well understand all of the difficulties and the concerns of the communities.
“But in all honesty the most realistic option that we have in front of us is option B because it provides a sustainable future.”
If adopted by the executive, it would mean Allendale Middle School pupils being reallocated to other schools in the Haydon Bridge Partnership.
Pupil age ranges at Haydon Bridge High, Whitfield CE First, and Haydon Bridge Shaftoe Trust Middle School would be adjusted to accommodate what would effectively become a two-tier system.
Coun Paul Kelly backed Coun Arckless, saying: “Option B has to be recommended to the executive as being the only practical and feasible means of delivering decent education to the children in the partnership.”
John Clark, head of planning and organisation at the council, said Allendale Middle faced losses of £70,000 under the Government’s new roll-call-related funding formula.
Pupil numbers have plunged from 134 to 107 since the Ofsted report, which criticised lack of leadership and standards although there has been a gradual improvement.
Mr Clark said: “Pupils at the school have been getting a bit of a raw deal in comparison with their peers elsewhere in the county.”
Last night anti-closure campaigner Steve Agar said the council decision-makers were faced with a lack of information on the alternatives to closure.
Mr Agar, who presented a 197-name save-our-school petition to the authority, said: “The council has not been active at all in trying to establish whether an academy could be viable.
“The executive is not obliged to make a decision on Monday, and I would be disappointed if it made a decision on the basis of the inadequate information that has been provided so far.
“No formal talks were ever held over sponsorship of an academy ... there were only informal discussions at an early stage.”
Mr Agar has written directly to the executive, saying: “This report is flawed in several areas, particularly as it does not provide a balanced picture of the strength of feeling against closure of Allendale Middle School, and contains a considerable amount of conjecture regarding the possible outcomes other than closure that is not backed up by any evidence.”