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School pupils grill mayor over museum closure proposal

Council and democracy

Wednesday, 06 March 2024
Mayor Chris Cooke and children from Village Primary School

Middlesbrough’s Mayor has been given a grilling by primary school pupils over a proposed museum closure.

When the youngsters at Thornaby’s Village Primary learned of plans to potentially close the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Stewart Park, they decided to put pen to paper.

And they took their objections to the very top – Middlesbrough’s elected Mayor Chris Cooke.

The campaign was part of an exercise in persuasive letter-writing that saw pupils challenged to make compelling arguments on topics of concern to them.

And their appeal to Mayor Cooke was so effective that he visited the Windsor Road school this week to hear their concerns in person.

The 20 letters put the politician on the spot over the proposed closure, as well as a range of other issues including why he wanted to be Mayor, how much he gets paid and what his plans were for Teessaurus Park.

Year 2 From teacher Nicola Nixon said: “The challenge to the pupils was to write a ‘real’ letter about something that mattered to them, and they really rose to the challenge.

“They really value the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum and wanted to make their voices heard.

“But they never expected the Mayor would come and talk to them – that was a real surprise, and they really enjoyed the chance to question him in person.”

Mayor Cooke told the group about his role and about the budgetary challenges facing the Council which have left members and officers facing difficult decisions.

But he also confirmed to them that the proposed closure of the Birthplace Museum has now been deferred.

Mayor Cooke said: “As politicians we frequently have to make difficult decisions, and it’s only right that the public can hold us to account for those decisions.

“The choices we make can also have an impact outside the borough, and that was certainly the case with the proposed closure of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum as part of one of the most challenging budget-setting processes of recent years.

“I was hugely impressed with the range and quality of the letters from the young people at the Village Primary, and it’s great that they feel so strongly about the things they value.

“It just goes to show that if you put pen to paper, your voice can and will be heard, and these young people are a credit to their school.”

One of the letters sent by children
One of the letters sent by children