DESPITE a decision by the schools adjudicator to save a North Tyne middle school from the axe, concerns were mounting this week about the county council’s determination to press ahead with plans to convert the first schools feeding into it into primaries.

Following last week’s ruling that Bellingham Middle School must stay open, Northumberland County Council announced that the proposal to extend the age ranges of Kielder, Greenhaugh, Otterburn, Bellingham and Wark C of E First Schools and convert them into primaries from September 1, 2019 remained.

This would see the pupils moving at the end of year six to Haydon Bridge High School.

Now, concerns have been raised surrounding the financial sustainability and pupil intake of schools once they move to a two-tier system.

Lisa Crocker, who has children at West Woodburn First School and Bellingham Middle School, said: “None of the schools will be able to accurately budget ahead and they will all be competing for a small number of pupils.

“I really don’t know how Bellingham First School will become a primary, especially with a middle school next door.”

The council currently provides free transport for children to their closest school in the catchment area, but parents who want to send their children to Bellingham Middle School may not qualify if they live in the catchment area of a primary school.

Lisa added: “For many parents, the option of free transport to school is the deciding factor in where they will send their children.

“I would be willing to drive to Bellingham if free transport isn’t given, just to prove the council wrong, but parents in Kielder and Falstone may struggle. The council will now try to strangle the middle school by not funding transport for parents who want to send their children there.”

When the council revealed plans to close Bellingham Middle School earlier this year, councillor Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “We know transport is a concern for parents of affected Bellingham pupils and we will be working closely on a one-to-one basis with them, to develop a robust travel plan for each and every pupil.”

The schools adjudicator was keen that parents were informed immediately about his decision so they could make an informed decision on applications for schools in the area.

However, he has not yet provided the council with the full reasons for his decision.

As a result, the council has extended the deadline for parents willing to submit an application to Bellingham Middle School or another school until Friday, November 16.

A council spokeswoman said: “Because we have not received any additional information or rationale for the adjudicator’s decision about Bellingham Middle School, we cannot comment on issues like this at this stage.

“We are advising parents to apply for the school that they wish their children to attend, and once we have more information about the decision we will be able to confirm details about travel arrangements.

“The decision to convert first schools to primary schools in September 2019 is aimed at securing a sustainable model of education for the Haydon Bridge partnership and there are no plans to change this decision.”