Councillors vote to close Roseberry College and Sixth Form due to falling pupil numbers

The Advertiser Series: FACING CLOSURE: Durham County Council plan to close Roseberry College and Sixth Form FACING CLOSURE: Durham County Council plan to close Roseberry College and Sixth Form

A COLLEGE principal said it was ’a very sad day’ after watching councillors vote to shut her school due to falling pupil numbers.

Ann Bowen said governors at Roseberry College and Sixth Form, at Pelton, near Chester-le-Street, would consider legal action in a final bid to save the school, after Durham County Council’s cabinet backed officers’ closure proposal.

Members heard that Roseberry can accommodate 996 pupils but had only 324 on the roll last September, when the council started consultation.

Since then the number has plummeted to just 189.

Rachael Shimmin, corporate director of children and adults services, said such low numbers make it difficult to sustain a secondary school of Roseberry’s size.

And with funding linked to pupil numbers it would become harder to employ and maintain high quality staff to meet pupils’ needs, she said.

Ms Shimmin said there were also concerns about standards at the school.

It was rated satisfactory in its last three Ofsted reports, though the authority aspires to have all schools rated as good or outstanding, and 44 per cent of pupils gained five A* to C GCSE grades with English and maths compared to a county average of 63 per cent.

Ms Simmin acknowledged ‘significant opposition’ to closure from pupils, parents, staff, governors and the wider community.

Laura Wolfe, whose son Alistair, 16, and daughter Mabel, 12, attend Roseberry, urged councillors to save their school as both would struggle to cope with a move.

School governors submitted an alternative proposal to keep a smaller school on a smaller site, to accommodate 300 11 to 16-year-olds.

Chairman of governors, Bill Oliver said: “Governors recognise the challenge but still believe Roseberry should and could have a future as an educational establishment and for the community.”

But Coun Ossie Johnson, cabinet member for children and adult services, said: “Emotional and heartfelt convictions have been expressed by those who oppose the recommendations.

“However, we have the responsibility as the LEA (local education authority) to ensure all our young people have the opportunity of a first class education.

“The data indicates this is the correct way forward.”

Cabinet members unanimously supported the recommendation to close Roseberry from August 31, 2014, subject to full council approval later this month.

Mrs Bowen said: “It is a very sad day for Roseberry College and Sixth Form.

“The impact of the decision will be deeply felt by our students, their families and the staff as well as the community as a whole in years to come.

“We will continue to support the young people and the staff in order to secure a successful future.

“The local area must now come to terms with the loss of their local secondary school and the hub for a rich and varied range of extra-curricular and community activities.”

She said governors will consider seeking a judicial review and Mrs Wolfe said her family would also consider legal action.

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