What does the future hold for Forest of Teesdale School?
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
THE future of Teesdale’s most remote school has come under the spotlight – five years after it was first earmarked for closure.
There is currently just one pupil on the roll at Forest of Teesdale Primary, one of four small schools which form the Upper Durham Dales Federation.
With Forest’s sole youngster being taught alongside children at one of the other schools in the federation – St John’s Chapel, Rookhope and Wearhead, all in Weardale – residents in the upper dale contacted the Mercury fearing Forest had, in fact, been closed.
Durham County Council officials say they are monitoring the situation.
Jim Murray, Durham County Council’s head of education and skills, said: “The school had one pupil on its roll at the start of this academic year and we continue to work with the governing body around the best ways of sustaining education provision across its communities.
“This will be looked at in the autumn term as part of the regular reviews of education provision and financial monitoring that we do for all maintained schools alongside their governing bodies.”
He added: “Forest of Teesdale Primary School is part of a federation of four small rural primary schools, brought together to enhance the curriculum and education provision for all pupils enrolled across these schools.
“Children are routinely taught with others in the federation, using one or more school building for this purpose, according to age group or subject.”
Barnard Castle West county councillor Ted Henderson is the cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, as well as a member of the governors at Forest of Teesdale School.
He said: “No decision has been made with regards to the school itself but the highest regard has been put on the children’s health, wellbeing and social care, as well as their educational needs.
“As the portfolio holder for children and young people for Durham County Council, I am discussing the best options for all the children.”
In 2016, plans by Durham County Council to close Forest of Teesdale school were met with a furious backlash from residents in the upper dale. They said closing the school would make the upper dale a less viable place to live and work and less likely to attract new families.
At the time, the school had 14 pupils who joined in the campaign to save their school.
More than 2,000 people signed a petition calling for the county council to rethink its proposals.
After a two-month campaign, council leaders decided to keep Forest of Teesdale open, sharing a head teacher with Rookhope and St John’s Chapel Schools.
In January this year, the Upper Durham Dales Federation was formed, which also included Wearhead, under the leadership of executive head teacher Sarah Hodgkinson.