After presentations by the Council, the Diocese and an impassioned plea by Head Teacher, Phil Harte, the community finally got its say on St George's future to a, hopefully, neutral judge. The Schools Adjudicator listened as he learned new information from parents themselves, who questioned the role of the new 6th form promised at St Ambrose - a technical college running diplomas rather than English and Maths exam subjects.
He also heard the rumour that St Ambrose might be selling their playing fields to Liverpool Football Club for use as an academy, how parents believed that the consultation had been a sham, how there had been no review of future Catholic pupil numbers before the decision to shut St George's and how land values of the site seemed to be dictating its closure.
Parents told from their hearts personal stories of the brilliant work done by the school's SEN unit and the special atmosphere in the school, while teachers explained that despite the uncertain future not one of their team had left the school (apart from one retired and one promoted). Time and again parents, pupils and ex-pupils said that big shiny glass schools were irrelevant compared to the attention pupils get in the intimate setting of St George's. By closing St George's, the Adjudicator was told, he would be "ripping out the beating heart of the community".
Figures read out showed that 90% of current pupils walked to St George's and the Schools Adjudicator was challenged to attempt the impossible journey to the new merged school site at 8am in the morning.
The message was sent out loud and clear that St George's is a valued school and that there are no educational reasons to close it. Deputy Head, Pete Fisher, called it an act of "civic vandalism".
The decision on the future of St George's will be announced within four weeks. People can still write to the Schools Adjudicator for the next week before he makes his decision.
Contact him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or write: The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, Mowden Hall, Staindrop Road, Darlington DL3 9BG
See also today's story and links to previous articles