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 overview and scrutiny committee, held at County Hall on Thursday, 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.

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."

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 last week.

It recommends the closure of Bellingham Middle School and the expansion of six small North Tyne and Rede Valley first schools into primaries.

The changes build on the advances already made to introduce a two-tier education system in the Haydon Bridge Partnership, but no changes are planned for the Hexham Partnership of schools, with a two-tier proposal by the Hadrian Learning Trust for Queen Elizabeth High School and Hexham Middle School rejected by the council.

However, all schools are expected to cooperate in a "resilience programme" of partnership working to ensure they remain sustainable for the future.

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 reduced the capacity at the school from almost 1,000 to around 720 pupils.

Mr Johnson added: "Feelings have been running very high during the consultation and in the lead up to it.

"Now I think what we need to do is harness that passion and move forward."

Coun. Daley, added: "The resilience programme will essentially be like putting rocket fuel under all the good stuff which has already been done in some of our small rural schools.

"It will look at how they can best share teaching and learning resources and work closely together as federations or through Multi-Academy Trusts."

But Mr Johnson warned that the onus was on the 32 schools in the Hexham and Haydon Bridge partnerships to "go beyond the rhetoric" and clearly demonstrate that they plan to make changes and collaborate with others to remain viable.

Members of the scrutiny committee, chaired by Coun. Guy Renner-Thompson, voted unanimously to support the proposals, which will now go before the council's ruling cabinet on Tuesday.

If agreed, statutory proposals on extending the age ranges so that six rural first schools can become primaries and the closure of Bellingham Middle School, would be the subject of a formal four-week consultation.

The results would then be put before cabinet on July 10.