School facing the threat of closure

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FAILURE to reach government standards could see a Bedlington school close.

Consultation is under way that would see Bedlington Junior High School close and a two-tier system created in parts of the town.

It comes following concern that Key Stage 2 results at the school have failed to meet required standards in the past six years.

On Monday Northumberland County Council’s executive agreed to start statutory proposals which would see Bedlington Station, Bedlington Stead Lane and Cambois First become primary schools, with Bedlingtonshire High School taking on secondary status.

Junior High, which used to be West Sleekburn Middle School, was placed in special measures in 2003 and again in 2007.

In 2005 it began sharing the governing body and headteacher with Bedlingtonshire High School and in 2008 moved to the high school site to strengthen links and drive up standards.

The middle school was graded satisfactory in 2009 by Ofsted and taken out of special measures, and an inspection last year found it had the capacity to improve further.

But Year 6 results remained below national expectations in all subjects.

Council officers have blamed the failure on inconsistencies between the National Curriculum and the three-tier system as pupils transfer mid-way through key stages.

The Department of Education says that any school falling below standard for five consecutive years should convert to an academy or close.

The feeder first schools, which currently cater for three to nine-year-olds, would become primaries, retaining pupils until the age of 11.

The children would then move to Bedlingtonshire High School, which at present takes pupils from the age of 13.

Modifications would be needed at some of the schools to accommodate the extra numbers and Bedlington Station Primary School may have to operate over two sites, possibly using the present Junior High premises for its older pupils.

The council executive heard that staff at the Junior High School would be put at risk of redundancy by the move, but many could be redeployed.

Other schools in the Bedlington Partnership would remain unchanged.

Initial consultation will run until April 24, following which it will be decided whether to progress with the plans.

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We have no choice but to begin consultation on reorganisation of schools in the Bedlington Partnership and closure of Bedlingtonshire Junior High School; despite efforts to raise standards it is felt that the three-tier system is a significant block to improvement.

“We do not believe that creating an academy is a viable option, so working within government guidelines, this proposal is the best way to ensure children and young people currently in, or preparing to enter, education in Bedlington are helped to attain high educational standards.”