LEADERS at Northumberland County Council have reiterated their commitment to a multi-million pound rescue plan for Haydon Bridge High School by appointing a new interim executive board of governors.

The move was announced at a meeting of the council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee, held at County Hall, where councillors debated the outcome of the informal consultation on education in west Northumberland.

Parents have also been informed of the appointment of five education professionals and members of the community, to the new board at the school, which includes headteacher at Prudhoe Community High School Deborah Reeman, and county councillor for South Tynedale, Coun. Colin Horncastle.

Jan Corlett, who has 30 years’ experience working in education and school inspection, former teacher and local authority officer for the county council, John Clark, and solicitor Jonathan Gribben, make up the rest of the board.

Coun. Horncastle told the meeting that the new board, which has replaced the government-appointed IEB, had already met for the first time and had a clear plan of action to deliver improvements at the school.

“I am confident about the future of the high school. There are real plans coming together behind the scenes to make the school work,” he said.

“I can’t tell you the impact that the uncertainty has had on parents and children in my community. There has been a serious black cloud lingering and it looked like the only possible outcome was that Haydon Bridge would close.”

However, in their first letter to parents on April 30, members of the IEB indicated that feedback following the latest Ofsted inspection, which is yet to be published, had been disappointing, and “highlights weaknesses at the school”.

Deputy leader of the council and portfolio holder for children’s services, Coun. Wayne Daley, said after years of neglect it was only right that the school was “given a fighting chance”.

The proposal to invest and secure the future of the school to maintain parental choice in west Northumberland forms a key part of the report which was published on April 24.

Project manager for the overhaul of schools in west Northumberland, Andy Johnson, said: “Haydon Bridge High School will continue as a maintained school until the Regional Schools Commissioner can broker an appropriate sponsor. We are assuming the RSC still wants to do that at this time.

“A new Interim Executive Board has been established by the local authority to develop a strategic plan for Haydon Bridge High School.”

He added that the £1.54m investment to help the school balance the books was over and above meeting the £600,000 annual financial deficit that the school currently faces.

“The investment was new money found by the council and would not disadvantage other schools.

Rationalising school buildings on the site, with a further £2.5m to £3m, would reduce the capacity at the school from almost 1,000 to around 720 pupils.

But former headteacher of St Joseph’s Middle School in Hexham, Alan Hodgson, warned that “reversing the drift” of pupils from Haydon Bridge to Queen Elizabeth High School, and finding a balance to maintain healthy pupil numbers, would be key to ensuring both schools remain sustainable for the future.