Angry scenes at South Shields School consultation meeting

A South Tyneside school is facing an uncertain future after education bosses voted on measures which could see it shut.

Angry scenes from a packed public gallery greeted the decision made by education bosses tonight at South Shields Town Hall.

Protesting families at Wednesday's meeting.

Protesting families at Wednesday's meeting.

It leaves South Shields School, in Nevinson Avenue, with just six weeks for pupils, staff parents and others to prove why it should stay open when a consultation begins next week.

The move by South Tyneside Council’s cabinet comes after it was revealed the school faced the prospect of closure after failing to find a sponsor to help it convert to an academy.

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Moira Smith, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “Due diligence has identified viability concerns as a critical issue to any [academy] sponsor coming forward.

“The availability of spaces within other schools [in the borough] and a lack of demographic growth in the area means there’s no route to grow pupil numbers in a sustainable way.”

A report for councillors added the school, which was rated inadequate by Ofsted inspectors in November last year, currently has about 550 pupils on its roll and is likely to be less than half full by 2020/21.

Fewer pupils means less funding, which in turn makes it more difficult for the school to keep up with annual payments of £400,000 towards the private finance initiative (PFI) deal which saw the current building built.

Coun Smith also stressed that if the school did close it would remain a ‘community facility’ and that there were ‘no plans to build houses on the site’.

The consultation is now due to start on September 20 and will run until November 2.

A report on the consultation’s findings is then expected to go before cabinet on November 14.

The decision was met with dismay by those in the public gallery.

Speaking after the meeting, Andrea Evans, whose daughter Paige is a pupil at the school, said: “I think it’s disgusting that they’ve got all of us here, there’s teachers who might lose their jobs, and they’ve known exactly what they’re going to do.

“Is that building going to be stood empty [in the future]?

“There’s parents whose children have just gone into year seven, it’s bad enough going from primary to secondary school, but they’re going to have to do it again.”

Kerry Howlett, who also has a daughter at the school and a son expecting to join in 2019, added: “They [the councillors] have decided the kids’ future and the parents’ and the teachers’, we’ve had no say at all.

“I’ve had a petition with over 1,000 signatures and it means nothing – it’s a very sad state of affairs for all concerned.”

Parents of pupils at the school will hold their own meeting on the issue on Thursday night at 6pm at The New Ship pub, in Sunderland Road, South Shields.

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service