CAMPAIGNERS to reopen a sixth form have criticised a local MP for claiming victory, while it is still in suspension.

Wolsingham Sixth Form was suspended back in 2019 due to a lack of students, but since then the school has been increasing its intake.

With the sixth form being in suspended status, it makes it easier to bring it back back than starting a new sixth form.

However, the campaign to save the sixth form and reopen it started a long time ago – and campaigners are keen to make sure things are seen through.

The present MP for Northwest Durham, Richard Holden said: “This is a campaign I have been working since I was elected and I have been working closely with local residents in Weardale... to make our case to the Regional Schools Commissioner and to the Secretary of State for Education.

"I’d like the hundreds of local people who took part in my survey for helping make this a reality.”

However, former MP for North West Durham Laura Pidcock said: “The campaign to keep Wolsingham sixth form open and then for it to be re-opened, after suspension, has very much been waged by parents and carers of the children at the school.

“Whilst I was MP, I met with the Education Secretary (Damian Hinds at the time) and asked for him to provide the financial security the school needed, both through a change in the funding formula (to account and compensate for rurality) and to provide a relief payment for the deficit the school was carrying. Both requests were refused.

“Rural schools will always have smaller sixth form populations, but the young people and parents and carers should not have to pay for that through reduced education opportunities or none at all.

“To celebrate this continued suspension is disingenuous in my view. The sixth form should be reopened so the children of Weardale can take up sixth form education without having to travel for hours.

“The government, and the MP for this area need to get this sixth form reopened permanently, nothing else will do. Only if that happens, would it be right to celebrate.”

Durham County Councillor for Weardale John Shuttleworth said: “If Richard Holden’s Government had not cut the funding to small secondary schools in 2011, all smaller schools could sustain a sixth form, with a choice of subjects.

“The current direction for the school is positive, and it is well thought of within the local area, and entire community. The Advanced Learning Partnership, of which Wolsingham is part, consulted the public, and made its decision on that basis.”