A school in South Tyneside could close after failing to find a sponsor which would have enabled it to become an academy.
South Tyneside Council is preparing to launch a consultation process on the future of South Shields School - which was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in October 2017.
By law, the council cannot maintain a school rated “inadequate” by Ofsted, and as no academy sponsor has been identified, the council is now obliged to launch a consultation into the school’s future.
The school, in Nevinson Avenue, South Shields, has some 500 pupils, the lowest since it opened in 2007.
The council says falling pupil numbers have been a factor in the Regional Schools Commissioner being unable to find an academy trust sponsor.
School funding is largely based on pupil numbers and falling rolls can create significant cash problems.
Coun Moira Smith, lead member for children and young people at South Tyneside Council said: “The local authority’s priority is to give its full support to the school during this difficult time.
“We have a duty to the pupils, and the entire school community, to ensure that they get the best possible education.
“The Government requires us to oversee a statutory consultation to help inform what happens to the school in the future. What is important is that everyone has their say.”
A consultation process could begin on September 13.
This would be a six-week informal consultation with the school, parents, other local schools, trade unions and other interested parties.
This would be followed by a statutory consultation later in the year.
It is anticipated that a final decision on the future of South Shields School will be made next year.
Consultation would cover how any closure process would be managed to ensure minimum disruption, and it is understood that there are enough places in nearby schools for the pupils.
Coun Smith added: “There is no doubt that this is a very difficult time for pupils, parents, staff, governors and all associated with the school.
“We know that parents and carers will have many questions about what happens next and we will work with them throughout the entire process.
One parent whose son attends the school said: “A lot of the children will be going into the most crucial years of their education, so this is far from the best news for those students and their parents.
“A lot of pressure is already applied on young people to achieve good GCSE results and this uncertainty as to what is happening with the school is not going to help them.
“I just hope the powers that be make decisions quickly and prioritise those who will be starting their GCSE years to make whatever transitions that may arise as smooth and as disruptive as possible.”