EDUCATION chiefs have drawn up a new list of schools due to close or merge as part of a £300m education shake-up.

Earlier this year, Durham County Council released a draft plan that mapped the future of more than 300 schools for the next ten to 15 years.

It included 23 schools that were being considered for closure as a way of tackling falling pupil numbers and serious surplus places.

This week, the council confirmed the first firm proposals, which included just two school closures - North Blunts Primary, in Peterlee, and Haswell Primary, in east Durham - and another seven to be merged as a priority.

Officers said they would continue to work with the remaining schools in an effort to find alternative solutions to the surplus places problem, but stressed the programme was not yet complete.

Aycliffe Village Primary School, one of the initial 23, was celebrating this week after waging a high-profile campaign to avoid closure.

The school has worked hard in an effort to convince education chiefs of its importance to the community, and is to open a breakfast club and after-school facilities.

Headteacher Jo Clarke said: "We are thrilled, excited and extremely pleased. It's fantastic news."

Ten-year-old Chloe Mckenna, who wrote a poem to Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him to help save the school, added: "I'm really really pleased because if the school does close my sister would lose all her friends."

Parents at Eldon Lane Primary School, near Bishop Auckland, have vowed to fight plans to merge the school with nearby Dene Valley Primary School.

Julie Barlow, who has children at Eldon Lane, said: "A lot of the parents are angry because we do not know what is going on. We do not want Eldon Lane Primary to close. It is a good school."

A county council spokeswoman said full details of the programme have yet to be finalised, but added that the proposals for the nine priority schools will now go out for full consultation.