Consultation over under-threat South Shields School could begin next week

South Shields School.
South Shields School.

Consultations into the future an under-threat South Shields School could begin next week, it has been announced.

The school was rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2017 - which triggered the search for an academy trust to sponsor the school.

Councillor Moira Smith.

Councillor Moira Smith.

The Regional Schools Commissioner has been unable to find a sponsor, largely due to falling pupil numbers which impacts on the longer term financial viability of the school.

Consultation on its future could start next Thursday.

A report to members of the cabinet at South Tyneside Council on Wednesday highlights that pupil numbers at the school have fallen and are predicted to decline still further.

By 2020/21 it is predicted the school will have almost half of its 850 capacity unfilled.

The catchment areas for South Shields School, Boldon School and Mortimer Community College significantly overlap and some families are opting to send their children to Boldon and Mortimer which have significant surplus places.

The continued decline of student numbers will impact on the school budget if action is not taken according to council chiefs

They added that it is likely to have a knock-on negative effect on the ability to deliver a broad and full curriculum.

If agreed by cabinet, a six-week informal consultation would begin on September 13.

Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, Councillor Moira Smith, said: “We appreciate that leaders at the school are effectively addressing standards issues with the council’s support and this was reflected in a positive Ofsted monitoring report.

"However, this consultation has been triggered as a result of viability in relation to pupil numbers, not standards.

“By law, the council cannot maintain a school with an ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted rating.

"Strenuous efforts have been made to find a sponsor and convert the school into an academy, without success.

"Unfortunately the school cannot become an academy without a sponsor.

"We now have a statutory duty to carry out a consultation; failure to do so could see the government step in to close the school.”

She added: “We are determined that every child in South Tyneside has the best start in life and providing an excellent education is pivotal to that ambition.

"We will continue to give students, parents and carers and everyone else associated with the school our full support at this difficult time.”

Speaking last month, headteacher at the school Allie Denholm said: “Although we acknowledge that there is still more work to be done, we’re taking fast and positive steps, moving on a rapid improvement trajectory to achieve our vision of ensuring all pupils are free to explore new opportunities, achieve great results and ultimately go onto successful careers.

“We care deeply for the welfare and success of all our pupils and will ensure the consultation causes no disruption to their education."

This would be followed by a second statutory consultation with pupils, parents, the governing body, staff and trades unions later in the year.

It is expected that the council's cabinet will be required to make a final decision on the future of the school on January 23 next year.

Consultation will focus on the reasons for potential closure of the school, arrangements for transition of pupils, a timeline for transition and closure, and information about alternative schools in the area.

The cabinet is meeting to discuss the issue on Wednesday.