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Cabinet recommended to close school


Sep 9, 2016

203Councillors are being recommended to shut a County Durham school amid falling pupil numbers and continued concerns over educational standards.

Startforth Morritt Memorial C of E Primary, in Barnard Castle, has just 25 pupils and Ofsted inspectors found in both 2014 and June this year that it is “requiring improvement.”

Now, after many attempts by Durham County Council, the Church of England diocese, governors and other schools to secure its long term future did not come to fruition, the local authority’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the closure of the school in December.

The council’s strategic manager for school places and admissions, Sheila Palmerley, said: “Schools need to be sustainable in the long term, and we have for a number of years expressed concerns about Startforth Morritt Memorial C of E Primary.

“We began consultation on the schools future as we did not believe progress had been sufficient since Ofsted rated it as ‘requiring improvement’ in 2014, and the number of pupils continued to decline. Inspectors have since then, in June this year, found it is still ‘requiring improvement’ in five out of six areas including the quality of teaching and outcomes for pupils.

“We have been discussing these issues with the governors and the diocese for some time.

“For two years Durham County Council, governors and the Church of England diocese have sought a solution – including asking governors of other schools for support, and proposing amalgamation with nearby schools – but neither have gone ahead.”

The school has capacity for 112 pupils. At the time of the inspection in 2014 there were 57 pupils on roll. That fell to 36 pupils during the last academic year and the number from September 2016 is 25.

Sheila said: “Through our consultations we received a number of representations regarding the proposed closure on 31 December 2016 and the transfer of Startforth’s pupils to larger ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ schools in the local area from January 2017.

“All views have been considered – Governors, staff, parents, pupils and members of the local community clearly have strong feelings, but the concerns relating to low pupil numbers, the school’s budget, its long term viability, the standards of education and Ofsted judgements are great.”

A report detailing the consultation will go to Cabinet on September 14, with a recommendation that councillors approve the closure.

By Emily