Residents across the area will be aware of Shildon Town Council’s recent engagement with Durham County Council and our community over its opposition to proposals to close the Sunnydale Campus of Greenfield Community College.
Over successive terms in recent decades this Town Council has actively sought to speak up for, protect and seek improvement to the provision of secondary education in Shildon, and though we have no statutory responsibility for the provision of education, we believed that as your elected representatives it has been correct to seek to provide that additional voice on your behalf.
It was with a heavy heart that we, like you, received the news earlier this year that despite our intervention to conduct and provide them with our own survey of our community’s feelings on the matter Durham County Council’s Department for Children and Young People’s Services could not be dissuaded from their conclusion that closing the Shildon site and building a new school, not here but at Newton Aycliffe, was the best outcome for them.
The outcome of Durham County Council’s statutory public consultation on the proposal concluded that across the communities of Shildon and Newton Aycliffe there was a majority of respondents that expressed support, though of course the responses could not be broken down to get an understanding of how the sub-groups of Shildon and Newton Aycliffe parents had responded. Arguably given that this was a cross-site consultation and with the majority of Greenfield Community College parents being Newton Aycliffe residents it could be argued that the consultation outcome would likely be a foregone conclusion.
Though greatly disappointed by this news, the Town Council, being aware that the local authority are not the only potential providers of secondary education, made a decision to investigate whether an alternative body might consider building a new smaller secondary school scaled to meet the potential intake and possible future growth of the town if all known planned developments were to go ahead. Avenues for exploration included Free Schools, Academy Trusts and an extension of Faith School provision.
A number of meetings were held with different providers where we set out the case for building a new school in Shildon. However, without exception, the parties we spoke to all explained that owing to the way that schools are funded in England there was no likely opportunity to apply for, or probability of success in obtaining, funding for such a venture. None of the education providers we spoke to saw sufficient merit for their respective organisations in further exploring setting up a new school here in Shildon.
On this basis, Shildon Town Council feels that, for the short to medium term at least, we must now accept the decision and outcome that Durham County Council have imposed upon our community. We feel we have exhausted the immediately available avenues of enquiry that might have led to a different outcome.
Your Councillors are not, however, as a body resigned to supporting the view that our young people being educated in other towns is what is best for them, and we will continue to monitor the situation, observing how the schools in neighbouring towns perform in providing secondary education to our young people and their families, to watch pupil numbers carefully and to champion a return of secondary education provision to Shildon in future if the landscape of opportunity, or national education policy, changes.