Hundreds rally over Northumberland schools closure threat

Image caption,
Parents and pupils marched on Northumberland County Hall in Morpeth

Hundreds of parents and pupils have gathered to protest against plans that threaten 16 rural schools with closure.

The rally, outside Northumberland County Hall in Morpeth, marked the end of a council consultation on a proposed shake-up of local education.

Parents claim the move would "rip the heart out" of small communities and mean young children travelling further.

Northumberland County Council said the current system was not financially or educationally viable in the long term.

The Conservative-led authority said doing nothing was not an option.

First and middle schools in the Hexham, Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge areas would be affected.

Image caption,
Parents claim school closures could threaten some rural communities

Helen Yates, from Save Tynedale's Amazing Rural Schools, said the parents "demand an open and transparent discussions of options and finances".

"There will be significant impact on transport, travel times, job loses and housing. It really is shocking," she added.

"The consultation is flawed, crude and far too short. The councillors haven't taken into account the full implications of any proposed changes."

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said the authority had made "no decisions on closures at all".

"This is an informal consultation. We are absolutely listening to comments about choice and to those about what the structure should be in the west of the county."

The council has proposed closing some schools, merging others and building two new schools in Hayden Bridge and Hexham.

A final decision is to be taken later this year.

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