RESIDENTS have backed plans to close a struggling college which was criticised by Ofsted before re-opening it as part of a successful nearby school.

Sunnydale Community College, on Middridge Lane, in Shildon, was judged to be inadequate and to have serious weaknesses by Ofsted earlier this year.

In recent years GCSE results have fallen below the national average and less than half of its 954 pupil places are filled.

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Durham County Council aimed to improve the Ofsted rating by closing Sunnydale on December 31.

The Shildon-based college would then re-open as part of Greenfield Community College, in Newton Aycliffe, on New Year’s Day.

The council held a series of consultations at both schools in July to gather the views to the planned changes.

Sheila Palmerley, the council’s strategic manager for school places and admissions, said: “The feedback demonstrated significant support for the proposal.

“The community was particularly pleased that the proposals would mean that secondary education provision would remain in Shildon.

“A statutory notice will be issued in September, giving people a final opportunity to comment on the proposals over a four-week period.

“Cabinet will then make a decision on whether to implement the proposals. If members agree, the changes will take effect from January, 1 2015.”

Sunnydale is a specialist maths and computing school and it already shares a governing body with Greenfields.

The Newton Aycliffe school was called good by Ofsted in 2012. The pupils from both schools already access lessons at both sites.

David Priestley, Greenfield headteacher, will be made the executive headteacher of both schools if the merger goes ahead.

Sunnydale headteacher Sue Byrne was already set to leave in the Autumn.