Parents have hit out after being refused free home to school transport.

Bellingham Middle School was threatened with closure as part of a review of education provision across west Northumberland, but was saved after a schools adjudicator overturned the council’s decision.

However, the middle school remains part of the Haydon Bridge Partnership where a two-tier primary and secondary model has been introduced.

Bellingham Middle School now no longer has a catchment area.

Northumberland County Council’s transport policy states that transport will be provided to children who live within a school’s catchment area or to a school that is nearest to their home.

Both schools are on the same site, and are accessed by the same main entrance.

But some parents have said as they have to pass the middle school entrance to access the Primary School, it is their closest school.

In response to one parent’s appeal, the council said the distance to the schools is “exactly the same” and said they are “unable to agree that the middle school is closer to your home address”.

One parent, who wishes to remain anonymous and has had their appeal refused, said they feel pressured to “either keep them [their children] at a school that I don’t feel is appropriate for their needs and that they don’t wish to be at, or be forced into debt to pay for a seat, £360 per year, payable at £120 each term per child on transport that operates on our route already, and has done for over 40 years.”

“My children are advanced learners and need the further and more adapted quality of learning and education that Bellingham Middle School offers,” they said.

“They are bored, and lack the confidence of a child this age being at a small primary school and are not challenged in their lessons and having to share their work space with children in lower years.

“They need the opportunity to grow and spread their wings.

“They have already missed out on so much of their education this last year due to the pandemic that being at a school that offers a wider range of curriculum learning with subject specific specialist teachers in classrooms with other children of their own age is the most obvious and most beneficial option to choose.

“I think it is disgusting that they are refusing to allow the transport.”

“I could understand my application being refused if I was trying to get transport to Hexham or further afield, as this would be out of our area, but 9 miles is just ridiculous and with the current bus having plenty of spare seating, I just don’t understand it,” they added.

“Well actually, yes I do, in my opinion they are just money grabbing thieves.”

Another parent said whilst the primary school is “fantastic” as a first school, it “can’t offer what the middle school can offer in terms of specialist facilities and subject teachers”.

A further patent, Lisa Crocker, said: “We find it unbelievable that they will provide transport to one school but not the other on the same site.

“As a parent I don’t want to be forced to send my son to a school where he is the only child in his year because I can’t afford to pay for him to go to the school next door and he has to go out at play time and see all his friends playing together in the middle school playground.”

Bellingham parish councillor Brian Tilley said: “The county council has behaved disgracefully since its plans to close the middle school were thwarted by the adjudicator.

“It is using children as pawns in its bid to close the school by stealth, by denying them the free transport to their local school which is their entitlement.”

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “Northumberland County Council’s transport policy outlines that transport will be provided to children who live within a school’s catchment area or to a school that is nearest to their home. Bellingham Middle school is no longer the catchment school for primary aged children living in the North Tyne Valley area. It is only likely to become the nearest school when children reach secondary school age and apply for Year 7 school places.

“Applications to Middle, Secondary or High schools are considered on places available within schools at the time of application. Transport to a chosen school will only be provided on allocation of a school place and if in line with the Transport Policy as mentioned above.

“Parents who choose to move their child before they complete Year 6 will therefore be responsible for getting their child to and from school. Should anyone wish to appeal a transport decision they can do so.”

They added: “We are extremely proud of the high-level education offer here in Northumberland and would like to reassure parents that primary age children across the county have access to the same learning opportunities through the primary curriculum whether they attend primary or middle school.

“Funding remains in the budget to invest in early years education in the area. As a local authority we are committed to doing all we can by working closely with the governing body of the school so that we can move forward, plan and facilitate future investment.”