A SWEEPING review of every secondary school in Darlington is to be carried out to tackle the falling number of pupils and decrepit state of some buildings.

The assessment will consider how education is to be delivered in the borough's schools in the future and whether some need to be rebuilt or refurbished.

Darlington Borough Council estimates that by 2014 there will have been a 22 per cent drop in the number of secondary school pupils. The poor state of secondary school buildings is also causing concern.

A full consultation with school governors, staff and parents will be carried out to decide how to tackle the problems.

A spokesman for the authority refused to comment last Friday on whether some schools would be shut down.

He said: "I don't know and couldn't comment on that. How can we know until we have carried out the review?"

He said the review programme's focus would be on building new school buildings.

The Government has told all local authorities to look at rebuilding and refurbishing their secondary schools within ten to 15 years, starting from 2005 to 2006.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) published a consultation document, Building Schools for the Future, in February, which outlined plans for a £5bn investment in school buildings.

Secondary school rolls are currently at their highest level in Darlington but will begin a gradual decline in January.

Long-term trend analysis suggests that by 2014 only 5,200 secondary school places will be required for 11 to 16 year olds, compared to 6,633 now.

Geoff Pennington, the authority's director of education, said: "The DfES consultation offers fantastic opportunities for all local authorities to assess and improve all of their secondary school buildings.

"But it is far too early to make any detailed comment until we have carried out full and comprehensive consultations."

Terry Bladen, national president of the teaching union Nasuwt and a teacher at Eastbourne School, said he welcomed the review.

"If they can use it as an opportunity to build new schools then all to the good. Darlington has shown itself to be a good employer and we know we will be part of the review."

He said they would want assurances that there will be no compulsory redunancies.