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MP questions council proposals to close school
1:55pm Friday 1st November 2013 in News
AN MP has written to education chiefs voicing his concern about plans to shut a comprehensive school.
Durham County Council is consulting on the proposed closure of Roseberry College and Sixth Form in Newfield, Pelton, near Chester-le-Street.
The proposal has sparked a campaign by parents and the community to save the school.
The council is extending the consultation for a further four weeks.
North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones has written to the corporate director for children and adult services, Rachael Shimmin, about the plan.
The MP wrote: “I share the concerns of parents, students and teachers in relation to this proposal and remain entirely unconvinced of the case for closure.
“I remain very concerned about the issue surrounding capacity in other schools within the area, as from my enquiries it would seem North Durham Academy is the only school with a reasonably large number of available places.
"I would therefore be interested to know exactly what existing capacity is available in other local schools and how this compares with the projections for future intakes at Roseberry.
“I am also concerned about what travel arrangements would be put in place in the event of closure, including funding arrangements, for students who would no longer live within walking distance of their school. It would of course be very unfair to make families pay for transport when they previously would have lived only a short walk from the school.” He also raised concerns about the potential loss of a well-used community facility.
But Caroline O’Neill, the council’s head of education, said the authority refuted claimes that the consultation was based on inaccurate information and it stood by its reasons for examining the viability of the school’s future.
“Despite capacity for approximately 1,000 pupils, the school currently has just over 300 pupils on roll and, with a significantly falling roll, the school’s sustainability has to be questioned.
“The financial pressures the school is under also mean it will be highly challenging for the school to set a balanced budget and provide a broad and balanced secondary curriculum in future.”
She added that no decision had yet been made and that the concerns of parents and pupils would be considered carefully.
“If it is decided to further consider a proposal to close the school, we will issue a statutory notice which offers a further six-week period during which people can put forward their views.”
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