AN MP has vowed to tackle to Government on education spending after a sixth form college in her constituency announced it will stop taking in new students, leaving teenagers from the remote Durham Dales to trek miles further for their education.

College admissions at Wolsingham School have been suspended for two years due to funding problems, it was confirmed this week.

Governors and Durham County Council say the sixth form could be revived in future.

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The move came as the council reviews the management of education across the county in the face of mounting school budget deficits and funding formula changes.

Phil Hodgson, Durham County Council’s head of education, said: “The governors at Wolsingham School have made the decision to temporarily suspend admissions to sixth form.

“We fully support this decision as a prudent measure at a time when all schools are having to look very hard at their budgets.

“Suspending admissions, rather than closing the sixth form, leaves the option open to run post-16 education courses from the site in the future."

He said the council will support the school as it works with pupils, parents and carers to ensure all year 11 students find suitable sixth form places from next September.

But the move leaves the next cohort of potential students, many from Upper Weardale, looking at colleges or sixth forms at least ten miles away such as in Lanchester, Consett, Bishop Auckland or Durham. Some may travel to Durham 14 miles away or to Barnard Castle 16 miles across the Pennines.

North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock said: “A scenario where there will no longer be sixth form provision at Wolsingham is a terrible prospect. The alternatives, because of the rural location and poor transport links, are really unpalatable and I can understand why parents are worried.”

A source, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The community are aghast and they are shocked. This will leave our young people out on a limb and nobody seems to care.”

Miss Pidcock parked the blame firmly at the Government’s door.

She said: “I and my party have raised the issue of school funding, particularly in rural areas, with the government and yet nothing has changed. The fact is, they have consistently underfunded our schools for many years, and the drop in per-pupil funding for sixth form students has made the sixth form in this rural area unsustainable.

“That is no reflection on the school staff or management, but purely down to the Department of Education starving schools like Wolsingham of funds.

“I am deeply disappointed and angry that the government is taking away this essential resource for our pupils and our communities.

“I shall be raising this with the government at the earliest opportunity.”