A star for STARS as rural schools consultation draws to a close

Save Tynedale’s Amazing Rural Schools (STARS) has stepped up its campaigning as the controversial school consultations for the West of Northumberland draw to a close.

Parents and children created a massive star formation in a field at Wheelbirks Farm on Sunday 25th March. Drone footage of the human formation was captured by FlyPro-UK Limited.

“We filmed on a lovely sunny day at Wheelbirks, where families from schools across the area came together to celebrate our wonderful rural schools,” said Sarah Dick, spokesperson for STARS. “We decided to create the star formation as a symbol of our unity and strength as a school system that works for rural communities.”

The rest of the week has been spent “star showering” all 16 of the rural schools that could close across West Northumberland under unpopular proposals put forward by the Northumberland County Council (NCC).

The parents and children of the schools, representing nearly half of all those in this part of the region, were greeted as they entered the school gates with displays of stars, one for every student at the school.

Several volunteers from the STARS campaign were involved in “Operation Starry Night”, travelling over 100 miles in an effort to ensure that every child in every school received his or her own unique star.

Helen Hunter, a Broomley First School parent and keen craftswoman, made thousands of stars by hand, with help from some of her friends. The delicate crochet, felt and pipe cleaner star garlands were left with a special note for each school, including the following message:

“Like the dark skies of rural Northumberland, each school in the Haydon Bridge and Hexham Partnerships contain a galaxy of the brightest stars – our children. Some galaxies are small, some are larger, but all shine brightly in their individual, unique and wonderful settings.”

“Each school is unique and special, and working together they provide a wonderful educational experience for the children of West Northumberland.”

“The current consultation seems to neglect how well these schools fit their purpose, and their environments. It also appears to devalue the education that our children already receive. We think your pupils are amazing and we’ve left a star for each of them.”

It ended with a plea that NCC councillors would “realise that the consultation into education in the west of Northumberland is not about the movement of units from one place to another, but is about providing our children with the best place for them to shine.”

In Hexham, the Hadrian Learning Trust consultation on whether to move to a two-tier (primary and secondary) model closes to the public on Thursday 29 March.

The academy is outside of the control of Northumberland County Council, but its decisions are expected to have a significant impact on the outcome of the council’s broader consultation.

Northumberland County Council’s schools consultation ends on the 9th April 2018. STARS is planning a protest outside County Hall to mark that day. It will hand over petitions signed by over 10,000 parents calling for rural schools to be saved and the unpopular proposals to be scrapped.





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