COUNCILLORS are being recommended to press ahead with a school closure despite strong opposition.
Durham County Council’s cabinet will decide whether Roseberry College and Sixth Form, Newfield, Pelton, near Chester-le-Street, should close at the end of the summer term when it meets on Wednesday, February 12.
Parents, pupils and governors, backed by North Durham MP Kevan Jones, have been fighting the plan, saying it will be a blow to pupils’ education and mean the loss of valued community facility.
Campaigners have looked at the idea of forming a Free School or merging with an academy School in the area and proposed maintaining the school on a smaller site, which officials say is not viable.
They say it is a good school in an area where housing development will create a need for school places. But the county council says that the school’s roll is falling and that it has 324 youngsters compared to a capacity of 996 and that its results are below the national average.
A report to the cabinet by Corporate Management Team says: “With such low numbers it is difficult to sustain a secondary school of this size.
“As funding for pupil numbers reduces there is less funding available to employ teaching and support staff with the necessary qualifications, subject knowledge and experience to deliver a secondary curriculum which could meet the needs of all pupils.”
The proposal attracted 104 objections, the reports adds.
Among the reasons given, in the report, are
*The school should stay open to continue to provide another school for families in the Chester-le-Street area.
*Staff are very dedicated and may lose their jobs.
*Pupils like the teachers at Roseberry College and Sixth Form.
*If the school was closed pupils felt that friendship groups may be split if they had to go to a different school.
*Both staff and pupils value having a small school in the local community, the school is like a family.
Ossie Johnson, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “ Moving forward we do feel that closure is the best option to ensure pupils get the best education possible and we will offer as much support as is necessary to ensure the transition to other schools is as smooth as possible.”