The boards are up at Belford Middle School as education in the town comes to an end for children over 11. This is a further chapter in the unpredictable tragedy affecting schools north of Alnwick in Northumberland. It said to be the result of a lack of coherent strategy by the County Council, and the consequences of the freedom from local accountability given to High Schools by Governments.
Here are two accounts by local people of the events that led to closure, and the final service which marked the end of the school in July. The first is from Martin Straker, the Chair of Governors.
It was a sad day and one I feel we could do little about. As the opening of the new school at The Duchess School and its decision to go two tier, forced parents to take the decision to secure a place at Y7 rather than wait to Y9 and risk not being able to get in.
Wooler could be in a similar predicament, but have the benefit of the First School and Middle all in one building and some continuity.
Belford First needs to make itself more attractive and pull children in from further fields (each First school needs to compete for those early years’ children to be able to survive, else we could see more closures in the near future).
Berwick Middle and Tweedmouth have hard federated to try to create some stability and keep hold of their 7s and 8s, rather than the “new” Academy moving to two tier which could happen if they get their act together and get out of Special measures. This consequently prove to be an issue and also with all the feeder schools in the Berwick catchment.
Secondly, from Councillor Susan Graham, who attended the service.
I attended the last church service for St Mary’s C of E Middle School, Belford on Friday 20th July.
All the pupils were there as well as staff and a good turnout of previous staff going back at least 30 years! The Reverend Denise Hiscox took the service. The children read out memories which were gathered from old and new pupils and put into a booklet which everyone received at the end of the service.
This is a school that has played a huge part within the community and outlying areas and everyone felt emotional when the children released colourful prayer balloons.
Reverend Denise Hiscox quoted that ‘the school had received a Good from Ofsted recently and the year six pupils had great SATS results.’ Many of us asked ourselves why was this lovely school closing? The reason being that Alnwick asked to go two tier which had a huge impact on St Mary’s pupil numbers!
Everyone left the service with a tinge of sadness but wished all the pupils good luck in their new schools in September.
Finally – we present a gallery of photos from the School’s website which will eventually close as well – showing the faces of a generation, and a future opportunity our community no longer has.