The site of a troubled school in South Tyneside must continue to be used for educational purposes – even if it closes, a councillor has claimed.
South Shields School is facing potential closure after being rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors and a failure to find a sponsor to turn it into an academy.
Pupil numbers have also fallen.
By law, South Tyneside Council cannot maintain a school rated “inadequate” and says it is obliged to launch a consultation process into the school’s future.
That process is expected to begin in September with an informal consultation - to be followed by statutory process - with a decision being made on its future next year.
It is understood the council has enough places in other schools in the borough for the pupils.
In the meantime one member of South Tyneside Council believes the site, in Nevinson Avenue, South Shields, must continue to be used for education in the long term.
Coun Doreen Purvis, who represents the Whiteleas ward, said: “It is purely, as I understand it, on the basis of falling numbers.
“It’s a decision that has been taken elsewhere. It’s not a decision for the council or local councillors to make. Somebody elsewhere has looked at the figures and decided this.
“There’s been one or two strange things about houses being built on the site, but the building must remain, for the foreseeable future, for education.”
The current school building was opened in 2011 at a cost of £21m and with space for up to 1,000 pupils – although it currently only has about half that on its roll.
It was funded by the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) 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.
According to the council’s Treasury Management Annual Report for 2017/18, which was signed off by STC’s cabinet on Wednesday, the council has contract liabilities of £114.14m from its PFI deals.
As well as South Shields School, this also includes Boldon School and Jarrow School, and street lighting and waste schemes.
In a statement, an STC spokeswoman refused to comment on the council’s PFI deals.
She said: “The Council is required to launch a consultation on the future of South Shields School.
“Until that consultation is complete, it would be inappropriate to provide information which could influence the outcome of that.
“We can confirm that no decision has been taken around closing the school.
“A decision on the future of the school would only be taken after full statutory consultation.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service