Governors back school closure to save sixth form

GOVERNORS have backed ending secondary education at their city school, in a bid – they say – to safeguard the future of its sixth form.

A six-week Durham County Council consultation on ending 11 to 16 education at Durham Gilesgate Sports College ends today (Friday, December 28).

While headteacher Arthur Raymond says the Bradford Crescent school’s low pupil numbers mean it will struggle to be sustainable, parents and pupils say it is a good school with a friendly, family atmosphere and have been campaigning to save it.

However, in a submission to the council, the school’s governors have backed closure.

In a formal statement, Councillor Dennis Southwell, the chair of governors, says the decision was reluctant but unanimous and taken after full and considered reflection of the circumstances and in the best interests of its students and families.

It says continuing 11 to 16 education is “unsustainable” and switching to being solely a 16 to 19 education provider would be “a way of pursuing the long term viability of the school’s sixth form centre”.

While the 475-place school has just 234 pupils aged 11 to 16, its sixth form, on Freeman Place, has more than 700 students on its books.

Caroline O’Neill, the council’s head of education, said: “At the end of the consultation process, we will consider all responses in deciding whether to proceed with the proposals to change the age range of the school from 11 to 19 to 11 to 16.

“If the decision is made to proceed with the proposals then the next stage would be for the council to issue a formal statutory notice. People would then have six weeks to respond to that formal notice.

“If the recommendation is still to proceed, any final decision would be made by the (council’s) cabinet.”

The school is facing falling rolls and has had to find savings of £1.3m over the last two years.

Under the proposals, there would be no year seven intake from next September. Pupils going into year 11 would be given the option of completing their secondary education at the school. Pupils in years eight, nine and ten would be given various options.

It is believed the school could close entirely in 2015 but bosses say no child will be left in the lurch.

No details have been released of what would happen to the site if the school closed.

Labour Government plans to close Gilesgate and Belmont schools and create a £25m academy were scrapped by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010.

To take part in the consultation, visit durham.gov.uk/consultation

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