June 26, 2008

Parents Voice Hopes and Fears for Merged School

By Catherine Priestley

PARENTS whose children would attend a proposed new school if two merge have been airing their hopes and fears about the plan.

Durham County Council held meetings on Monday and last night for parents whose children would be affected by the proposed amalgamation of Tudhoe Grange and Spennymoor comprehensive.

The authority said the move would address the issue of surplus places and provide modern educational facilities, with 1,300 places for 11 to 16-year-olds and a 200-place sixth form. The Meadows Special School could also be moved to the new school.

Families heard that the council is looking at six potential sites. They are the existing Tudhoe St Charles Road site, the site of The Meadows School and Spennymoor Comprehensive School and land at Merrington Lane, Whitworth Park, The Green, in Tudhoe, and off York Hill Road.

Sheila Palmerley, council school strategy places manager, said detailed studies of each were needed before a shortlist was drawn up. The public will be fully consulted throughout the process, she said.

She also said the transformation of education in Spennymoor would be part of a wave of changes using funds from the Government's Building Schools for the Future programme, to improve schools in Bishop Auckland, Ferryhill, Shildon and Newton Aycliffe.

Louise Edgar, the mother of a Spennymoor Comprehensive School pupil, said: "It's about children, their future and giving them every opportunity possible, so I cannot see any negatives.

"It is to provide the best for Spennymoor children, moving into the future and upgrading facilities which have been around for donkeys' years."

Claire Huntley, whose daughter goes to Rosa Street Primary, so would attend the proposed new school, said: "Being a bigger school doesn't mean it will be better. We need to know that the education will be as good or better than it is now.

"The sixth form at Spennymoor is very successful and one of the attractions with the school now is small classes.

"Our children will become one of a much bigger number, and we need them to keep their individuality and interaction with teachers."

Parents heard that the schools' specialist status - technology at Spennymoor and humanities at Tudhoe - would be preserved and could even be boosted with a third subject.

They were assured that concerns about disruption to pupils' education, children's feelings, road safety and competition for places would be considered before cabinet members consider the merger in August.

(c) 2008 Northern Echo. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.