Letter of the week: 'Economic madness to close South Shields Community School'

Protesters campaigning against the closure of South Shields School.
Protesters campaigning against the closure of South Shields School.

It is economic madness to close South Shields Community School.

When the school was declared "inadequate” by Ofsted, current legislation means it has to close or become an academy.

The Government wants as many academies as possible, taking education out of local authority control – a purely political decision.

There is a possible financial dilemma here, the school attracts approximately £4,700 per pupil per year of government funding.

I have read differing numbers of pupils on the roll compared to the capacity of the school.

Last report in the Gazette was 500 pupils, now a 1,000-pupil capacity, that is a financial shortfall of government funding of £2,235,000.

So no exiting successful academy is willing to take over as the numbers do not add up, they would go bust before they started.

The school was built by a private company under the last Labour government, using now discredited Private Financial Initiative.

The PFI cost was £21,000,000, usually paid back over 35 years, plus interest. There is still some 25 years to go .

This money has to be paid back whether the school is closed or not, and, of course, the decades keeping the building viable will have to be funded too.

Also read: Protest at South Shields School as battle to keep it open continues

PFI has currently to be repaid by the local authority, ie STMC or us the council tax-payer, not a problem with £4.7 million a year coming in from government, with a full school – but a nightmare with a school half full, or closed.

I am reliably informed that the school can not be pulled down for housing as the site must be used for education. So it will stand there empty for decades.

The education minister Damian Hinds has stated that due to immigration and higher birth rates 167,000 secondary places will be needed by 2022. So why close a new school that may be needed in a few years?

In a letter to our MP Emma Lewell Buck, Mr Hinds basically said the decision to go from local authority-run school to an academy was not written in stone and can be changed if representation is made by the local authority to the education ministry.

Last week's Letter of the week: "Let's hope a camel doesn't fall into a South Shields pothole"

How that works I do not know, but representation must be made to stop this catastrophe

Clearly this is what should happen here, two more years of full funding granted to the school so it can turn itself into a good school, which, in turn, attracts parents who will send their children there.

I know of parents who live 100 metres from the school who this year chose to go to Boldon Colliery on the bus rather than South Shields Community School,

It's a dilemma but with a will and common sense it can be sorted.

Colin Campbell,
Cleadon.