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Parents and teachers team up in fight to save South Shields School from closure

A group of parents who attended the meeting
A group of parents who attended the meeting

Parents and teachers have teamed up to fight for the under-threat South Shields School.

And their message is clear - the school is not troubled and is worth saving.

Last week, South Tyneside Council put a ticking clock on campaign efforts as its cabinet members agreed that a six-week consultation would be held for pupils, parents, staff and others to prove why it should stay open.

It was revealed last month that the school faced the prospect of closure after failing to find a sponsor to help it convert into an academy.

The school, which recently recorded its best-ever GCSE results, has had an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report looming over it since inspectors’ last visit in October 2017.

By law, South Tyneside Council cannot maintain a school rated “inadequate”.

A meeting was called for parents, teachers and members of the community to attend at The New Ship Pub, in Sunderland Road, South Shields, to discuss what could be done to prove the school is needed.

Kelly McGhin, teacher at the school and negotiating secretary for South Tyneside for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: “Time is of the essence and we think that very, very rash decision has been made without full thought and obviously it’s a very, very short consultation period.

“We believe truly as a staff body and also as a trade union point of view that the school is worth saving, that those kids are worth fighting for, that the community is worth fighting for and that we don’t think there are any particular good enough reasons to be looking at school closure.

“We want to fight to make sure we get at least a fair hearing.

“Industrial action is one tool that we could possibly use if we need to make our employer sit up and listen.

“This would only be if it’s a team effort.”

An online petition to save the school, which currently has an intake of around 550 pupils on its roll, has already received more than 2,800 signatures.

Parents also shared their dismay at the meeting about the possibility that their children will be forced to move schools during a vital time in their education.

Gemma Linney, of Whiteleas, says the consultation has come at a crucial time for her daughter who is in Year 9 and will be picking her GCSE options this year.

She said: “For me how much support is she going to get transitioning into another school when the teachers here do an absolutely fantastic job.

“She’s got such a good bond with the teachers, she’s the happiest she’s ever been at the school.

“I just feel as though if that school closes her education is going to fail, it’s going to go right downhill massively.

“That’s no disrespect to other schools but they’re going to be oversubscribed, that is the harsh reality of it.

“I don’t think the council have actually thought it through of the impact it’s going to have on Mortimer and Boldon when they’re the two schools they’re being pushed into if this does happen.”

Leanne Habbershaw, from Biddick Hall, whose son is also in Year 9, said: “The options that the council have left us aren’t viable options. The council haven’t looked at safeguarding issue for our children moving to another school.”

While parents and teachers discussed what action could be taken to show the school is worth saving, the future of the school site was also discussed.

The current school building was opened in 2011 at a cost of £21m and with space for up to 1,000 pupils.

It was funded by the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, a Private Finance Initiative which committed £112m to upgrading schools in the borough.

It is believed that the terms of this mean the school building must be used for educational purposes for the life of the deal.

But Becky Bailey said: “I want to know if there’s an interest in the building if South Shields School closes.”

Coun Moira Smith, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “What is important now is that the consultation gives a voice to those most affected by this issue.

“We are committed to giving every young person the best start in life but we can only do that if those directly affected by this issue work with us to help shape the best possible future for pupils of South Shields School.

“The Council has written to every parent, via the school, with details of when the consultation will start and contact details, which include a link to the website which contains Frequently Asked Questions. We encourage all stakeholders to use the contact details in the letter.

“As part of the consultation, which runs from 20 September to 2 November, parents meetings will be offered to all affected parents and carers where there will be the opportunity to ask questions.”

Information about the issues and about how to get involved in the consultation is available on the Council website www.southtyneside.gov.uk/southshieldsschool

Those affected by this issue can also call a dedicated phone number - 424 7847 or send an email via southshieldsconsultation@southtyneside.gov.uk