Parents plan closure challenge.
PARENTS say they are preparing to launch legal action after councillors voted to close their children's school.
An action group of parents set up to fight Northumberland County Council's proposal to close Guide Post Middle School is to seek a judicial review in the high court after the authority yesterday made the final decision to shut the site.
The parents say they have the full support of another group, which took similar action ten years ago when the authority sought to close 44 middle schools across the county.
As previously reported, Guide Post was earmarked for closure after being one of 17 visited by Ofsted last October following concerns over the standard of education in the county. Inspectors found it to be inadequate and placed it in special measures.
The county then began consultation on its closure from August, with plans to allow Stakeford, Ringway and Mowbray first schools to retain children until the age of 11 instead of nine, as they do currently. Bedlington High would then take children from the age of 11.
The Save Guide Post Middle School From Closure action group was formed in the wake of the council plans, setting up petitions which hundreds of people signed. In February, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery called for Guide Post to be given time to improve.
But the council published a statutory notice of closure, triggering four weeks of consultation. A report to the policy board's meeting told how only 22 responses were received during that period, two from the same person.
It recommended the original proposals be agreed, meaning the closure of Guide Post from the end of the summer term and reorganisation of the other schools for September.
The report recommended PS2.067m be allocated from the council's budgets for building costs, and a further PS57,000 to improve walking routes from the Guide Post area to Bedlington high. The policy board voted in favour of the recommendations.
During the meeting, council leader Grant Davey said: "While it is recognised that the closure of any school has an impact on the local community, these proposals would enable sustainable education within the Guide Post minipartnership from age two to 11. The consultation on this proposal has been appropriate, reasonable and robust."
After the meeting, action group member Alison Fairbairn, who has two children who are pupils at Guide Post, said: "This decision, as devastating as it is, has not been unexpected. Irrelevant of what the council say, this has been a clear plan from the outset.
"To say I am disappointed in councillors is an understatement. We have elected these people, yet they have ignored every wish of their community.
"Let's not forget, we have been here before, ten years ago. Exactly the same scenario, the council attempting to eradicate middle schools. This led to NEAG (Northumberland Education Action Group) launching a successful legal battle which ended up in the high court. "Well, I'm delighted to say I have secured legal funding and full support from NEAG and court papers are being issued next week. The courts will force the council into the truth behind the closures and make them accountable for every decision they have made.
"We will overturn this decision. It will then be publicly known we have no con-fidence in Northumberland County Council."
Parents and children at Guide Post Middle School <B