THE FINAL bell rang yesterday for a school threatened by closure – but the battle to save it will continue.
Campaigners who have fought since September to rescue Allendale Middle School looked on in despair yesterday as Northumberland County Council’s executive decided to shut down the 107-pupil school this autumn.
The closure decision followed a bad Ofsted report last summer, following which the school was placed in special measures for the second time in four years. The community has fought long and hard to reprieve the school during a 12-week public consultation.
The option of becoming a sponsored academy was also mooted – but the education authority said that had proved impractical and has gone instead for closure, with pupils to be reallocated among the other four schools in the Haydon Bridge Partnership.
Last-ditch pleas to give the beleaguered school time to improve its performance following signs of a good early recovery did not lead to a change of mind.
Coun Lesley Rickerby, the council’s executive member for children and young people, said she endorsed the closure option and said: “It is regretful we find ourselves in the position of having to decide whether to close the school.
“There has been improvement, but a difficult decision has to be made.”
Tony Mays, the council’s head of schools, said: “We believe that pupils at the school have not been getting the education they deserve compared with their peers. Although removed from special measures in 2010, the school has not been able to sustain that improvement.”
Last night county councillor Colin Horncastle, who carried the fight against closure into county hall with yesterday an impassioned address, admitted: “It looks like the end of the line – but we will still fight on. I’m not surprised that the executive thought that way for if I had only had the officers’ report to go off, I would have taken the same view.
“We did produce new information to show that the education authority acted hastily, but they ignored it.”
Campaigners have complained that sufficient information was not laid before them during the consultation.
Education officers claimed no-one had come forward as serious contenders to sponsor Allendale Middle School as an academy, but Coun Horncastle insisted he had identified one probable candidate as far back as October.
Parent Steve Agar said: “I’m not happy – they chose not to give it more time to see whether the school could get out of special measures.” Department for Education guidelines suggest schools in special measures can be given a full year to show they can pull round following bad Ofsted assessments.
Mr Agar added: “The Department for Education’s brokerage department is where we start off with that but they just haven’t gone to look at what’s been available.”
Parish councillor Marc Hydleman said: “We will have to regroup and see what more we can do – but we are not going away.”
A statutory six-week period is allowed following the issue of statutory notices for objectors to present their case.
They chose not to give it more time to see whether the school could get out of special measures