This week I have written to county council bosses warning them that the possible closure of a rural middle school must not be part of a plot to introduce two tier education by the back door.
Northumberland County Council say they are starting a consultation on the closure of Allendale Middle School. With governors from other schools in the 18-school Haydon Bridge Partnership considering moving to a two tier system, the closure of Allendale could usher in a two-tier system in West Tynedale. Now there are specific issues relating to Allendale Middle, and I have made it very clear that closure should be a last option because I have urged the Council to consider Academy status. Local Councillor Colin Horncastle is doing a great job steering the community through this difficult time.
However questions have to be asked about why the Council was so determined to push for just consulting on closure and turning Haydon Bridge from a High School to a seocndry school. Just what are the Lib Dems up to? In my letter to Council Leader Jeff Reid I have said: "Your council administration has already made it clear that your preferred course is to close Allendale Middle School and turn Haydon Bridge High into a secondary school. A rush towards closure could see the end of the three tier system, which would be a betrayal of local people.
Your request for me to lobby the Department of Education shows that you are taking local people for fools. You have despatched senior council officers to evangelise about the two tier system to local governing bodies. A senior Lib Dem county councillor is the Chairman of Governors of a local first school federation and is pushing the area towards two tiers.
No one will be fooled by your shameless sleight of hand. The County Council did not bother to contact me about their decision to close the school and have presented the local community with no option but closure, even though they know that academy status is a possibility for Allendale Middle School. I have already spoken to the Department of Education about this matter and they are clear that the choice for a council with a failing school is Academy status or closure, and there are no exceptions, as the County Council knows full well."
There are specific issues relating to Allendale Middle and we need to solve those issues sensibility. A rush to closure does no one any favours. I am on record as saying I would prefer to see Academy status rather than closure.