Parents seeking legal advice over threat to school

Parents have vowed to continue their fight to save their school as councillors moved one step closer to closing it.

Staff and parents at Guide Post Middle School are angry at Northumberland County Council’s ‘railroading’ of plans to close the school this summer after it was placed in special measures last October by Ofsted.

Following last year’s damning report by inspectors, the authority began the process to close Guide Post Middle at the end of this school year.

Pupils in Year 7 and above will move to Bedlingtonshire Community High School while Mowbray, Stakeford and Guide Post Ringway first schools will become primary-year schools.

On Tuesday, members of the council’s policy board accepted recommendations to proceed to the next stage of closing the school with a statutory four-week consultation ahead of the final decision being made in June.

But speaking after the meeting, parents said there were signs the school was improving and called for more time to turn things around.

Parent Alison Fairbairn said: “We were told in October that the school would have 14 months to turn things around.

“As far as we’re concerned we still have 11 months to do that.

“The support is there to turn things around, why won’t the council help us?

“We’re seeking legal advice on this decision. There is no way we are stopping.

“The consultation already held by the council was flawed, with forms going missing.

“The school is making progress. The last SAT results were fantastic.”

Fellow parent Christine Davison added: “If I didn’t think my children were getting a good education, I would have pulled them out of the school.”

Margaret Coulson, whose grandchildren attend Guide Post Middle, said: “Our concern is the safety of the children. Children are vulnerable between the ages of 11 and 13. At middle school they have time to mature, now they are going to be at school with 16, 17 and 18-year-ols.”

Parents also said that Bedlingtonshire Community High’s last Ofsted inspection only saw it rated in the category above special measures.

Concerns were raised about the lack of time to get pupils and all the schools ready in time for the change from September 1.

Louise Storey, assistant headteacher at Guide Post Middle, said: “It’s going to be very difficult for the concerned schools to organise everything in time.

“The first schools and high school will need a lot of support from the county council. It’s putting too much pressure on them.”

During the meeting, members said two-tier education helped children reach their potential while the authority only had to the end of the school year to resolve the situation.

Coun Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services, said: “The Ofsted report published on Guide Post Middle School made it quite clear in their view this was a failing school.

“Whether we like it or not we have to deal with that situation.

“There has been a theme that we should allow more time and Ofsted are saying that the time the school needs is longer than the time available.

“We’re trying to deal with improving the situation of youngsters not just in Guide Post Middle but all schools. We don’t want this to drag out for a prolonged period.

“In this case, after much consideration, we believe this is the best option available.

“Nobody wants to close a school. I admire the campaigners, their commitment to this school is commendable.

“This is not just about one school, it’s about four and trying to find the best we can for children, not just those currently in the education system but in the future.”