FALLING classroom rolls and spiralling maintenance costs could force the closure of three primary schools in a Teesside town.

If proposals are agreed, Brambles, Caldicotes and Thorntree primary schools, in Middlesbrough, would close and a new £7.9m, 630-place school would be opened.

The plans have been discussed informally with parents, staff and governors at schools in recent weeks. They could take a step forward when Middlesbrough Council's executive is asked this week to agree the way forward in the reorganisation of primary education.

The new school could open in September 2007.

Executive council member for education and skills, Councillor Paul Thompson, said: "We believe the plans represent an important step towards providing a stable foundation and much improved facilities for children in east Middlesbrough.

"We've discussed these proposals with the school community and I think there is common agreement that we have to do something. Within five years, one in four desks at primary schools in east Middlesbrough will be empty.''

He added: "At the same time, the bill to bring buildings and facilities up to standard will have grown to £5m. And £3m will have to be spent at Brambles, Caldicotes and Thorntree schools.''

He said the plans for a new school would provide a stable basis for schools in east Middlesbrough well into the future, a good environment for children to learn and grow. It would also represent the single biggest investment in education in the town for years.

Coun Thompson said: "We have had a useful dialogue with schools and parents and I hope that will continue as we develop these plans. They have a big role in making these plans work and in helping us provide the best quality education for children in east Middlesbrough."

Subject to consultation, the plans will be put before the school organisation committee and council executive, in April.

The school would be on the site of the old Erimus training centre, off College Road, Brambles Farm. It would be designed to maximise extended school and community use. The proposals would also involve extending the catchment areas of Pennyman and Pallister Park primary schools.