Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger Schools Closure Threat

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger Schools Closure Threat

Article excerpt

Parents and teachers at 23 County Durham schools received the news they had been dreading yesterday - they are earmarked for closure.

Another 90 are recommended to merge, in a report outlining the county council's long-term plan to address a huge surplus places problem.

In some cases, parents were unaware their school was on a potential closure list until told by The Journal yesterday afternoon.

The vast majority of schools on what Durham's education authority insists is not a `hit list' are village primaries. They include Burnhope, near Stanley, where parents reacted with shock after The Journal broke the news to them.

Angela Forster, collecting her son, Sterling, five, said: "How are parents without cars supposed to manage to take children to school in Lanchester or Stanley? Are four-year-olds expected to travel unaccompanied on a bus and add at least an extra hour on to their school day? This is disgraceful."

At another earmarked village school, Haswell Primary, near Peterlee, governors' chairwoman Margaret Jackson-Fraser vowed to fight for it "tooth and nail".

She said: "This is a real community school. To lose it would be a disgrace. Of course there are empty desks, but who is to say new housing will not be built in Haswell in due course?" Durham county councillor Edna Hunter, chairwoman of another school on the list, Beamish Primary, at No Place, near Stanley, said: "There needs to be an awful lot of consultation before any final decision is reached."

A county council spokesman said any closures or mergers would take "years rather than months", after consultation.

Durham county has 8,000 surplus places. Education spokesman Coun Neil Foster said: "This isn't a hit list of schools to save money, it's about spending pounds 300m building new schools and adapting existing ones to ensure that we have a network of world-class facilities of the right size in the right place.

"The imaginative approach we are taking includes the redevelopment of existing surplus accommodation for other purposes, including early years and child care developments, accommodation for other public services and enhanced facilities for local communities, like libraries, doctors' surgeries and post offices. …

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