School faces axe for failing to make the grade

PARENTS of pupils let down by a failing school in Bedlington have given their blessing to plans to shut it down.

Education officials at Northumberland County Council have drawn up proposals to close Bedlingtonshire Junior High School as pupils there have consistently failed to meet national standards.

The school, known as West Sleekburn Middle until September 2010, has fallen below government-required standards for key stage two for the last six years.

A three-month consultation period was launched in January to give parents of the Albert Road’s school’s 220 pupils the chance to have their say, and their feedback has prompted the local authority to press ahead with its plans to shut it down.

Proposals due to go before the council’s executive next week would see the school close in August and education provision in the town switch from a three-tier system to a two-tier one.

That would mean Bedlingtonshire High becoming a secondary school for children aged 11 to 18, leading to an increase in pupils from 750 to 1,107, and Bedlington Station, Stead Lane and Cambois first schools becoming primaries.

Government policy states that any school which falls below key stage two standards for over five years should either close or be turned into an academy.

Council officials believe a change to a two-tier system will help improve standards across Bedlington, as has happened in Blyth and Cramlington.

In her report to Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s executive, schools organisation officer Lorraine Fife says: “Inherent inconsistencies between the key stages of the national curriculum and the three-tier system currently in operation in Bedlington are the primary reason why improvement at the end of key stage two in Bedlingtonshire Junior High School has not been able to be achieved.

“In spite of several significant interventions to improve standards at Bedlingtonshire Junior High School over the last eight years, including federation with Bedlingtonshire High School and relocation to the Bedlingtonshire High School site, no significant impact on standards at key stage two has been achieved.”

Bedlingtonshire Junior High has twice been placed in special measures by the Office for Standards in Education – in 2003 and 2007 – and was later re-rated as satisfactory.

Its last Ofsted report, in June 2011, saw the school assessed as satisfactory and improving, thanks in part to its federation with the high school and sharing the same governors and principal.

More than 8,000 consultation documents about the proposed closure were sent out, but only 128 were completed and returned.

Some 74 of the parents who responded agreed that Bedlingtonshire Junior High should be axed, with only 13 disagreeing.