Gateshead primary school closure would leave 'tear in the heart of community', parents warn

Colegate Community Primary School in Gateshead.
-Credit: (Image: Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle)


Closing a Gateshead primary would leave a “tear in the heart of our community”, parents have warned.

The future of Colegate Primary School, in Felling, is hanging in the balance, amid concerns over a funding deficit and a shortage of both pupils and staff. It was described earlier this year as Gateshead’s “most vulnerable school” as council bosses weigh up whether to shut it down or find a way to keep it open.

The prospect of closure has become a source of major concern for local families, with more than 2,400 people having signed a petition calling for the school to be saved. Presenting that plea to a Gateshead Council meeting on Thursday, parent Catherine Littlewood said that Coleagte was “not just a school, it is the heart of our community”.

She expressed deep worries about the impact that being forced to relocate would have on children whose early lives have already been heavily disrupted by the Covid pandemic, describing the Leam Lane Estate school as a place where pupils had “regained a sense of self” and built resilience following the troubles of lockdown. While Colegate was rated as ‘requires improvement’ at its last Ofsted inspection in 2022, Ms Littlewood said it had been improved under a new headteacher and was performing “exceptionally” compared to some others in the borough – especially for reading, writing, and maths.

The parent, who has a four-year-old son at Colegate, added: “With more support, I firmly believe that Colegate can become one of the best in the area.”

Concerns were also expressed about potential overcrowding and added strain for teachers in other schools if Colegate’s 125 pupils have to move. Ms Littlewood, who lives in Felling, concluded: “To close it would be a tear in the heart of our community.”

The council has previously set out three possible futures for Colegate: staying open as it is but with reduced staff and more mixed-age classes; reducing the size of the school into a single building and having more mixed-age classes; or that it closes down entirely.

Labour councillor Gary Haley, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, replied at Thursday’s civic centre meeting that the authority would “look carefully at all of the comments and suggestions” made in the consultation about Colegate. Coun Haley said: “It is clear to me that you are all very passionate about the school and the quality of education received there.”

He added: “Should the recommendation be to close the school and if it is agreed by cabinet, the final proposal would come back in accordance with statutory guidance. We would then seek any comments on the proposal.”

Coun Haley apologised for the briefness of his response, saying it was only a reflection of the uncertain stage the council is at in the decision-making process, but offered to meet with families to discuss any questions they have. A report to the cabinet in February warned that Colegate “carries a large financial deficit which is forecasted to increase”, was suffering from declining pupil numbers, and had “limited staff and leadership capacity”.