Darlington Borough Council has insisted the education service in the area is not in crisis, although it accepts there are issues which must be dealt with.

Whether it is a crisis or not, it is clear that those issues have become very serious indeed and they should act as a warning to education authorities facing school reorganisation challenges across the region.

Govenors in Hurworth meet tomorrow to consider the council's proposals to close the highly successful village school and merge it with troubled Eastbourne Comprehensive in a new £20m school on the outskirts of Darlington.

Parents, incensed at the idea of the village losing Darlington's most successful school, have already made it clear that they will not give it up without a bitter fight.

Meanwhile, union official and teacher Terry Bladen has warned of staff deserting Eastbourne school because they face such an uncertain future.

And the problems go much deeper than those surrounding Hurworth and Eastbourne. A report to councillors this week - a report which had to be toned down because the original was seen as too critical - points to concerns over the performances of the town's other secondary schools.

It all adds up to a hugely sensitive issue and one which has so far not been handled well by the local authority.

A breakdown in relationships among senior figures in the education service is at the heart of the problems and they have to be resolved quickly through strong leadership which has been lacking for too long.

Crisis or no crisis, the mess has to be sorted out for the sake of the children of Darlington.