Fears raised for future of Wooler school

Head teacher Ruth Bull

Head teacher Ruth Bull

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GLENDALE Middle School head teacher Ruth Bull has warned that the school might have to close within five years because of budget cuts.

The school’s budget for the next financial year has been slashed 
by £120,000 with similar cuts 
expected in 2014/15.

“We are very concerned about the future of Glendale Middle School,” said Miss Bull.

“Our budget has been drastically cut from April 2013 and it will be extremely difficult to sustain what we offer at the moment and there is the possibility we may have to close within five years. This would be a sad demise of a school which is the top middle school in north Northumberland.”

The financial crisis has been caused by a change in the way the government funds schools. The size of the school buildings and grounds are no longer taken into account, meaning funding is allocated purely on pupil numbers.

“The fact is we only have 135 pupils in buildings which have capacity for over 300,” said Miss Bull.

“That has resulted in an £84,000 cut to our budget and with cuts in other areas it totals £120,000. The system will be introduced over a number of years so we’re getting a 1.5 per cent reduction this year and a 1.5 per cent reduction the year after.

“However, we have to produce a balanced budget and that means we will have to lose two teachers and some support staff from September.

“Clearly such cuts are going to have a devastating effect on what we can provide which is particularly galling considering we were recently the top school in north Northumberland for Key Stage 2 SATS.

“We have a level of funding guaranteed for the next two years to try and maintain what we have got but clearly after that we don’t know where we are going to be.”

Letters have been sent out to parents informing them of the situation and a leaflet drop to 1,000 households in Wooler is planned when the weather improves. Discussions have also been held with Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith and senior officials from Northumberland County Council.

“The parents are horrified at the thought of losing the school,” said Miss Bull. “We cover a 200 square mile catchment and closure would mean pupils having to travel as far as Berwick or Alnwick.”

Coun Anthony Murray, who represents Wooler on the county council, said: “It would be a disaster if Glendale Middle School closed. It has a fantastic reputation and means a lot to the local community.

“The county council is well aware of its predicament and I will be doing everything I can to ensure it survives.

“We have to fight like crazy to maintain education in this locality as it is at the moment. If the government is going to subject small rural schools to these financial pressures we have to make sure our voice is heard loud and clear.”

A meeting has been called by the school, with the support of Wooler Parish Council, next Wednesday, January 30 at 7pm in the main hall to discuss the problems.

“Anyone interested in the future of the school is welcome to attend,” said Miss Bull. “At the moment it’s not a meeting designed to generate local funding, it’s a meeting to get support for our cause and see if we can put pressure on the government to change the way they fund rural schools.”

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