School site closure approved as pupil numbers stay low

A school is set to be reduced to one site after a decision by council chiefs.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 5:24 pm
The Trimdon Grange site
The Trimdon Grange site

Bluebell Meadow Primary School was formed in 2016 following the merger of Trimdon Grange Infant and Nursery School and Trimdon Village Infant School and Trimdon Junior School.

The 2-11 primary has been split across two sites with school age children being taught at Trimdon Village and nursery and pre-school children attending Trimdon Grange.

However, predicted student numbers following the merger have not materialised with the lower than anticipated numbers impacting on the school’s financial position.

This includes a predicted deficit of £177,000 by March 2021.

Following an Ofsted judgement of ‘inadequate’ in May 2019, it was ordered that the school must become an academy.

To help sustain the school for future years, Durham County Council’s (DCC) cabinet agreed to consolidate the school to one site at Trimdon Village.

As part of plans for Bluebell Meadow to join the Hartlepool-based Eden Academy Trust from September, the Trimdon Grange site will close.

According to a report prepared for councillors, academy bosses commissioned a survey which showed it would cost £1million to bring the Trimdon Grange building up to an acceptable standard.

DCC’s ruling cabinet discussed the changes at a remote meeting on Wednesday (July 8) which was broadcast live on the council’s YouTube channel.

Corporate director for children and young people’s services, John Pearce, told the meeting that all pupils of school age had already moved to the Trimdon Village site in January 2020.

In recent months, the Trimdon Grange site has continued to provide a base for nursery and pre-school age children.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Coun Olwyn Gunn, explained the reasons for the closure.

She told the meeting: “The report outlines the financial and educational difficulties the school has faced in recent years and the school being judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in May 2019.

“Because of this judgement, conversion to academy was a government requirement.

“The academy sponsor secured by the Department for Education, Eden Academy Trust, will only agree for the school to become part of the trust if it has responsibility for only the building and site of the former Trimdon Junior School.

“It’s believed that the best way of improving education outcomes and easing the pressure on the budget, will be most effectively achieved by Bluebell Meadow Primary School operating on one site, rather than two.”

Although objections were lodged to the proposals during public consultation, council chiefs said there were no ‘educational reasons’ put forward as to why the Trimdon Grange site should not be closed.

Cabinet member for social inclusion, Coun Angela Surtees, added: “The proposal to close the Trimdon Grange site of Bluebell Meadow Primary School is unfortunate, as the closure of any well established school building always is.

“However, this is the only option to ensure the future and long term viability of this school.”

The Trimdon Grange site will officially close on August 31, 2020.

The building will remain under council ownership rather than transferring to the academy trust as part of the conversion process.

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