The next stage in the review of primary schools in the Whickham area has now been reached. Gateshead Council’s Cabinet formally agreed on the options for closure which will be put out to consultation over the summer.
The proposals include the closure of Marley Hill and Sacred Heart (Byermoor) Schools, both of which have experienced falling pupil numbers and have surplus places.
Since the issue of the possible closures was first raised last year, some parents have transferred their children to Washingwell School. The effect of this has been to help Washingwell’s viability. When Gateshead Council first began considering the future of local primary schools, there was a cloud over Washingwell as it had a reasonable number of surplus places.
The school is not out of the woods yet but the Council Cabinet report, approved on 25th May, stated that if Marley Hill is to close, parents will be able to send their children to Washingwell instead.
However, the Council Cabinet has decided to delay by a year consultation on possible changes to those schools in Whickham village.
Councillor Jonathan Wallace, speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 25th May, warned that this delay would cause difficulties. He pointed out that the proposals for Sunniside would, in effect, send children from the village to a school whose future, whilst more secure than previously, was not yet fully guaranteed.
Councillor Yvonne McNicol said, “Washingwell needs the last elements of uncertainty removed so delaying the decision on schools in Whickham for a year is not welcome.”
Councillor Peter Maughan said, “Earlier in the review process, Gateshead had proposed what is effectively a closure of Front St by merging it with Fellside Primary. The delay of a year simply adds to uncertainty which schools, staff, parents and pupils could do without.”
The consultation over the closure of Marley Hill and Sacred Heart will take place over the summer. We will keep you in touch with progress.