Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Parents Calculate the Impact of Shake-Up of Rural Schools

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Parents Calculate the Impact of Shake-Up of Rural Schools

Article excerpt

Byline: Sean Seddon Reporter

WHICH families are set to be hit the hardest by Northumberland County Council's controversial changes to schools in the west of the county? A raft of first and primary schools are facing closure as the local authority looks to get rid of undersubscribed and financially-struggling schools.

It has released three models for future schooling and launched a wideranging consultation on the plans, which have already generated controversy and anger from parents.

How children get to school is a big issue for parents in the rural county and the changes will inevitably see many families having to travel further every day.

The council says it has made sure no more than six miles would be added to a single journey and protected some particularly remote schools.

With some schools merging with others or catchment areas feeding into entirely new schools, the effect on journey distances certainly isn't uniform across the plan.

The extra distances families could have to travel range between 1.9 miles, generated by the merger of Beaufront and Acomb First School, to almost six miles. Wark Church of England First School is set to close under all three models, with pupils transferring to a new primary school in Otterburn. According to the council, that means people moving to the new school might have to travel up to 5.8 miles more to get there.

Similarly, Whittonstall First School is slated for closure in all three plans, adding as much as 5.7 miles onto travel distances when pupils switch to Broomhaugh Primary School.

West Woodburn C of E First School is earmarked for closure in all three proposed models, but arrangements in option C would see some students travelling an extra 5.8 miles to the new Otterburn primary.

A council spokesman said: "We must stress that no decisions have been taken and this is an open and transparent consultation where all comments, views and alternative proposals are welcomed, including those on travel policy.

"We want to take this opportunity to agree a system that will be most beneficial to all children. …

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