COUNCILLORS are being advised to support the amalgamation of two secondary schools, which would lead to the closure of one site.

Durham County Council’s cabinet is being asked to agree to the merger of Durham Community Business College in Ushaw Moor and Fyndoune Community College in Sacriston.

Next week’s meeting will hear that the council has been instructed to amalgamate the sites, which will result in the closure of one of them, by the Department for Education.

This was part of an agreement to remove the academy orders placed on the schools.

Councillors are being asked to agree to the closure of the Fyndoune site, which is operating significantly below its capacity, although they are being recommended to support continuing use for educational and community purposes.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Amalgamating these schools on a single site would allow concentration of teaching expertise which can only enhance the learning environment for students.

“Working with its leadership and governors to foster relationships with other educational establishments would also offer further opportunities to build on the improvements in teaching standards already achieved.

“Retaining the Fyndoune site for other educational and community purposes would furthermore ensure it continues to benefit local residents.”

A report to the meeting states how the sites, which comprise the Durham Federation, were both found to be inadequate by Ofsted in 2014.

As a result, the DfE ordered they become academies although its efforts to find a sponsor were unsuccessful.

Consequently in 2018 the DfE agreed that the schools no longer be required to convert, allowing them to remain under local authority maintained control.

However this was dependant on the council amalgamating the schools, in effect requiring one of them to close.

The meeting will hear that the schools were revisited by Ofsted last year and upgraded to ‘requires improvement.’

Student numbers at the two sites have fallen since the 2014 inspections.

At Fyndoune, it had a year seven student intake in 2019 of 13 with a further decline expected for 2020.

DCBC’s year seven intake in 2019 was 44 with provisional figures for the federation suggesting it will be operating at less than a quarter of its capacity in 2020.

Cabinet will hear that the closure of Fyndoune is considered necessary, with a statutory consultation to take place if it agrees, and that amalgamating the schools on the DCBC site is the only option.

Cllr Alan Napier, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said: ““An amalgamated school on a single site would be a far more viable option and by forging relationships with other educational establishments, the hope is a truly sustainable model of education would be developed for the long term.”