PARENTS have launched a petition to save an ‘adored’ Catholic school after consultations were opened on its proposed closure.

They were reacting to a governing board’s decision to seek views on closing St Thomas More RC Voluntary Aided Primary School, in Belmont, Durham, with effect from August next year. The body cited falling rolls and the resulting reduced budget.

But parents reject this saying where admission predictions were nine, the actual admission for 2020 was 16.

A petition signed by nearly 1,400 people says: “Our children adore their school, their dedicated and compassionate teachers and their school family.”

It points out the only Catholic school in Belmont, which attracts pupils from the surrounding Sherburn, Pittington and Carville as well, is rated good by Ofsted and boasts SATs results in the top 1 per cent in the county.

The petition adds : “We need to save our school. We need to ensure our voices are heard. At a time where our children have been through so so much, in a time where well being and mental health matter more than ever, saving our school community is crucial.”

A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: “The unanimous decision of the governing body to consult on the proposal to close St Thomas More RCVA Primary School, Belmont has the full support of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

“The number of pupils on roll has continued to fall over several years and this has resulted in a reducing budget.

“The projected school budget deficit for the end of the financial year 2020-21 is £103,000, growing to a deficit of £159,000 at the end of 2021-22.

“The governing body has worked to reduce costs through staff reduction and through the shared executive leadership and federation of governance with St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Gilesgate.

“In spite of good financial management and significant reductions in spending, St Thomas More RCVA Primary School continues to be financially unviable and the governing body has been unable to set a balanced budget for this current financial year.

The statement adds: “The diocese has worked with the governing body to explore all possible options to enable St Thomas More RCVA School to continue to offer high-quality Catholic education to the pupils. Although maintaining the provision of Catholic education is a priority of the diocese, after exploring all options, regrettably St Thomas More RCVA School remains unviable.

“The school is maintained by Durham County Council, and the local authority has required the governing body to address the growing budget deficit. All relevant parties are encouraged to take part in the consultation so that Durham County Council is able to make a decision regarding the future of the school.”

All pupils currently attending St Thomas More Primary, will be entitled to a guaranteed place at St Joseph’s Primary School, Gilesgate.

Richard Crane, head of education and skills at Durham County Council, said: “The school governors and diocese are undertaking a consultation on a proposal to close the school, which is currently federated with St Joseph’s, Gilesgate.

“The reasons for the proposal are set out in the consultation documents published by the school and we encourage parents, carers and members of the local community to have their say on the proposals up until the deadline of October 19.

“All comments will be carefully considered before any decisions are made.”