TENSIONS were running high at a meeting to discuss the future of a village primary school.

A consultation is underway on proposals to close the school site in Sherburn Hill, with children from the village having to travel to nearby Sherburn Village instead.

Sherburn Primary currently operates from two sites, following an amalgamation of the two schools in 2015.

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Parents, grandparents and pupils, holding signs and placards, gathered outside the school in Front Street on Tuesday to protest against the proposals, ahead of a meeting with Durham County Council officials and Councillor Olwyn Gunn, the authority’s cabinet member for children and young people.

More than 60 people attended the, at times, fraught meeting.

Irene Bryden, a former dinner nanny at the school, said: “These parents and grandparents would like it to be kept. Take it away and we have one shop in the village. This is the heart of the community.”

Another parent said: “It’s wish wash. The decision is already made, the school is closed already. Half the children have gone to other schools because they’re scared.”

Sheila Palmerley, the council’s strategic manager for school places, said: “The money that comes into schools is for children first and foremost. We must make sure any money coming in can be spent as far as possible on education and not for repairing buildings and preparing meals twice.”

She added: “We wanted to keep the school here as well which is why we did what we did but it comes to a point when we have to look and ask is it still the right thing to do?

“We are really not sure it’s working for the benefit of children’s education. We now believe it’s the right time to think about bringing the two schools together in a single site.”

Governor Deborah Halliwell said: “As a governor, we want to do our best for both communities. We have very, very difficult decisions to make. A lot of them are based on the financial implications of running the schools.

“It’s very important to me to try and keep the school open but that may not be achievable.”

Governor Rita Looker questioned whether money could be found to help keep the site open.

She said: “There’s always been a school here. These people are willing to do anything to keep this here.

“The bottom line is finance. They are willing to help. Is there any way the council can look for future money?”

Ms Palmerley said: “One of the things that has changed is how schools are funded. There’s not as much flexibility any more. It’s very prescribed.

“We had anticipated there would be 225 pupils but because there are fewer children which is why it’s harder to run two sites.”

The school has 164 children on the rol1, including 45 who are taught in Sherburn Hill.

It is anticipated that by 2030, there will be 236 children attending the school, all of whom can be accommodated at the larger building in Sherburn Village.

Parents have also voiced concerns about being able to get their children to Sherburn Village, which is around 1.5 miles from Sherburn Hill.

The council also took the opportunity to quash rumours that the school site had already been sold for development.

The council’s cabinet is due to make a final decision in May and if approved, Sherburn Hill will close at the end of the academic year.

Another meeting is being held tonight with MP Roberta Blackman-Woods. It takes place at Sherburn Hill Methodist Church in Front Street at 5.30pm.