‘No plans’ for doomed multi-million South Shields School site, say council chiefs after voting to close it
Council bosses insist they have ‘no plans’ for the site of a doomed school which has saddled them with saddled with a multi-million pound debt.
South Tyneside Council’s ruling cabinet voted on Wednesday to shut down South Shields School at the end of the next academic year.
This could leave tax payers to pick up the tab after the school was rebuilt with a £24million Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal.
Coun Moira Smith, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “No plans for future use of the site have been considered at this stage as that would have been inappropriate during the consultation process.
“We understand how difficult the consultation on closure has been for the students and their parents and carers.
“The education of our young people remains a core priority for the council.
“We are absolutely committed to supporting the entire school community and the focus now is on making sure the transition to alternative schools is as smooth as possible.”
Under the terms of the PFI deal, the council could be forced to shell out towards the school’s upkeep every year until 2036.
According to a report prepared for council bosses the annual bills attached to the site, in Nevinson Avenue, total £400,000 - and must be paid even if classrooms are empty.
This debt, along with falling pupil numbers, was a major factor in the school’s failure to convert to an academy last year.
It was ordered to become an academy following an ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted rating in 2017.
South Tyneside Council wrote to the schools watchdog last year to request a re-inspection in the hope it might prompt the government to withdraw the academisation order.
But inspectors refused to amend their schedule, which is due to see them next visit later this year.
The council’s withdrawal of funding means it is expected to formally shut for good on August 31, 2020.
No year sevens will start the school’s next and final academic year.
And any children due to enter year 10 will be moved to minimise disruption to their GCSE studies.
In a statement released yesterday, Allie Denholm, headteacher at South Shields School, said it should be a ‘comfort’ for current GCSE pupils in years 10 and 11 that staffing will remain ‘stable for their exam years’.
But, when asked, the school has also been unable to confirm whether it expects to have to cut staff in the summer to account for two fewer year groups in its next and final academic year.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service