HUNDREDS of civil servants today ask the Education Secretary for a special Christmas present - to keep their jobs in Darlington.

Workers from Mowden Hall are pleading with Department for Education (DfE) bosses to scrap plans to transfer 480 posts to Newcastle.

Staff say they could be forced to look for new jobs if the proposals go ahead.

They have handed a card to Darlington MP, Jenny Chapman, urging Education Secretary Michael Gove to grant their festive wish and keep the DfE in Darlington.

The Government has identified Mowden Hall for closure due to its poor state of repair.

A decision is expected in March, and staff union members and community leaders have put forward potential sites at Lingfield Point and Northgate House, in Darlington, to relocate staff.

Rosie Hill has worked at Mowden Hall for more than 30 years, but said she would have to look for another job if her post was transferred to Newcastle.

She said: "I work school hours with my children at Abbey School and Hummersknott Academy.

"Moving out of Darlington is just financially not an option for me and there are a lot of other mothers and people here in the same situation."

Fellow civil servant Bernie Thomas moved from Reading, in Berkshire, to work at Mowden Hall four years ago and avoid the commute to London, and said workers were deeply upset at the plans.

She said: "We feel like we are not getting the full story.

"We are faced with real uncertainty and people with children will really struggle if their jobs are moved."

The Save Our Jobs petition, led by The Northern Echo, has already attracted more than 1,000 signatures.

It will be presented to Mr Gove at Downing Street by The Northern Echo and Mrs Chapman.

Mrs Chapman said any move from Mowden Hall would leave workers in great financial difficulty and cut 21m a year from Darlington's economy.

She said: "The department has staff with great experience and expertise and we need to continue this fight to keep them in the town.

"The wider backing in the town has been overwhelming and everyone understands the significance of Mowden Hall and the massive contribution it makes to Darlington's economy.

"Staff simply would not be able to continue in their roles if they were transferred to Newcastle."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are committed to retaining an office in the North-East, where we have skilled and experienced staff.

"Mowden Hall would require significant investment, and we have explained to staff that we are considering alternative options in the North-East.

"We are reducing our head count and merging offices to reduce the cost of our buildings."

To sign the petition, go to