TEACHERS at a top-performing school have warned a council that it will destroy their school if it presses ahead with controversial plans.

Staff at Hurworth School, which is in danger of being closed by Darlington Borough Council, have told local authority bosses they are so worried about their future that they have "no option but to secure their jobs elsewhere at the earliest possible opportunity".

The council plans to close nationally acclaimed Hurworth and struggling Eastbourne Comprehensive and merge them into a £25m, 1,200-pupil Church of England-sponsored academy in Darlington.

But Hurworth governors have rejected this and instead plan to expand the school by a third, taking 300 students from Eastbourne Comprehensive, and gain foundation status, which will free them from council control.

Yesterday, teachers at Hurworth said they were unanimously against the academy plans.

Their decision to speak out marks another blow to a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the council and those involved with Hurworth School.

Last night, council chief executive Ada Burns, who met Hurworth staff on Wednesday, said she would continue to discuss the proposals with governors and teachers at the school.

Six months ago, the council unveiled plans to create a new Hurworth School to take over Eastbourne on a site in Darlington.

Hurworth governors supported that proposal because it meant the ethos and staff that had made Hurworth so successful would transfer to the new school.

However, the council learned it could only get the £25m needed to build it if the school became an academy.

Teachers have instructed Ms Burns not to promote the academy proposal by saying the ethos of Hurworth will be transferred.

A statement from the teachers said: "The final insult came with Ms Burns' closing remark that once the school was closed, the land would become surplus to requirements. That is how the staff feel at this moment."

Margaret Asquith, director of children's services at the council, said she had met Eastbourne governors and teachers on Wednesday, and said they supported the academy plans.

The statement from the Hurworth teachers said: "If the academy proposal goes ahead, it will destroy the school.

"The staff told Ms Burns and sponsor representative Sheila Bamber that they are worried that, in the current climate, it will be difficult to recruit new members of staff to replace those who leave, with obvious consequences for Hurworth School."