SHELLEY College’s plan to expand appears to be dead in the water.
Headteacher John McNally yesterday confirmed he had recommended that the proposal to accept Year 7 and Year 8 pupils to the school was withdrawn.
The dramatic U-turn comes after MP Simon Reevell urged him to scrap the controversial plan.
Mr Reevell said the school had failed to prove its plan would boost exam results and said the hundreds of angry emails he had received meant he could not support it.
And he said if the college went ahead with the plan he would lobby education minister Michael Gove to block it.
The dramatic development happened the day after Mr McNally was put on the spot at an extraordinary meeting of Kirkburton Parish Council.
At the meeting on Thursday evening he was asked by Clr Andrew Cooper if he would abide by the result of a Parish Poll – a local referendum into whether people agreed with the plan or not.
Mr McNally conceded that he would have to recommend the school’s governors to respect the result of the poll.
With the poll likely to result in a resounding ‘no’, Mr Reevell said he saw no point in wasting public money holding an election.
He said: “I recently asked Keep Shelley Pyramid supporters to email me and within five days I received almost 1,000.
“If the test is going to be the proposal needs to have popular support then that clearly isn’t the case.
“In those circumstances I won’t support the proposal and I would urge the minister to block them.
“I’ve invited Mr McNally to withdraw it and he agreed with my view there would be no point in having a ballot.”
Mr Reevell said Mr McNally had failed to prove any educational benefits to the two-tier system.
He added: “I always said if the educational justification was there I would back it, but the school is now saying they don’t have sufficient educational grounds.
“They haven’t been able to win that argument.”
In a statement released last night, Mr McNally said: “Shelley College is committed to a fair and democratic process, and is aware of the level of opposition to our current proposal.
“I will meet with our governors next week and recommend that the proposal is withdrawn.
“The governors will reach a decision and the correct procedure will be followed.
“As stated in all our communications, the views of parents and stakeholders would influence our decision – and this has been the case.”
Reacting to the statement, Keep Shelley Pyramid (KSP) spokesman, Simon Pocock, said: “Should that decision be upheld by the governors, obviously we’d be delighted about that.
“It’s the right decision and we’re thankful for the support of Simon Reevell.
“We sincerely hope the governors agree with Mr McNally so we can get on with re-building bridges with the middle schools.
“We’re pleased the wider community has been listened to and I would like to thank every single member who has come out in support of middle schools and ourselves.
“There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve an educational system, but we think it’s right for the governors to keep that within the realms of Shelley Pyramid.”
KSP treasurer, James Crowther, said they were “delighted” with the development but could not let their guard down until the proposal was formally withdrawn.
He said: “Mr Reevell has suggested to Mr McNally what he should do, but it’s not over until it’s over.
“When it was proposed only five people voted for it so if they’ve not changed their opinions it could still be on.
“But we look forward to Shelley governors discussing this development and adopting, hopefully, a new position.
“As it stands the consultation period goes until January 18 and until we are given a different indication we will carry on persuading people to email and contact Mr Reevell.
“If we can get 1,000 in five days our next aim is to get 2,000.
“We’ve had cross party support which shows this is not a political issue, it’s about education and children.
“All that linked together is a powerful argument.
“I think our campaign has made a difference and brought communities together, now we want to get back to building bridges with Shelley College.”
Mr Crowther said KSP’s response document had gone to print and would be published.
He added: “Our rebuttal to their statistics has gone to press and we believe we have a strong document coming out that disproves large chunks of Shelley’s claims.
“Unlike their document, all our data comes from verified sources such as Ofsted.”
Kirklees Green chief, Clr Andrew Cooper, who also sits on the parish council, said they were prepared to hold a Parish Poll.
Clr Cooper said he had “absolutely no doubt” that a Parish Poll would lead to a resounding thumbs down for Mr McNally’s plan.
He said: “Mr McNally can drop the proposal, if you like, ‘smell the coffee’, or we really can put it to a democratic vote.”
Clr Cooper said the little known piece of legislation would cost the parish council about £15,000 and would be administered by Kirklees Council’s electoral services.
Meanwhile, parents turned out in their droves to showcase events by the two schools at risk of closure if Shelley College’s proposal went ahead.
Hundreds of people attended Kirkburton and Scissett middle schools’ open evenings, to learn about the schools.
MIDDLE school heads have given a cautious welcome to news that the Shelley College expansion is likely to be scrapped.
Kirkburton Middle School head teacher Gary Johnson said they would not celebrate until the proposal was formally axed by Shelley College’s governors.
He said: “We’re really thankful that Simon Reevell has been so vigilant at looking into all the issues in the Shelley Pyramid.
“We thank him for responding so speedily to the parish council meeting on Thursday evening.
“But as far as we’re concerned people should still respond to the consultation.
“Until the governors meet and pull the plug on everything we won’t be breathing a sigh of relief.
“We’re still sending out our response document to the proposal.”
Mr Johnson said Shelley College governors “couldn’t have got it more wrong.”
He said: “We think it was ill-conceived from the start.
“He got the figures wrong and the feelings of the community wrong.”
Scissett Middle School head teacher Helen Baxter also refused to drop her guard.
She said: “I’m very pleased that Simon has listened to the views of the community and taken on board the feelings in the parish for a three tier system.
“It’s a really positive move in the right direction but it’s not over as far as we’re concerned as John McNally and governors can still go ahead with the proposal.”
Mrs Baxter said she would welcome the end of the wrangle and would happily work with Mr McNally in the Shelley Pyramid system.
She added: “If this is over it will mean going back to doing what we love and what we’re paid to do, running outstanding schools and doing what matters.
“What we do in this pyramid is work together and hopefully Mr McNally will realise that now.”
Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan said: “I would expect the Shelley College governors to accept Mr McNally’s proposal and then it is time to start to rebuild relationships which have become strained over the last few weeks, pitching school against school.
“Everyone needs to work together to rebuild the pyramid.’’
JUNE: Mr McNally first outlines proposal to governors. The meeting was attended by six of the then 13 governors. Five voted for the proposal and one abstained.
SEPTEMBER: Shelley College becomes an academy, meaning the school is no longer under the influence of Kirklees Council.
Kirkburton and Scissett middle school headteachers are briefed about Shelley College’s plan to start accepting their pupils.
A few weeks later the proposal is made public.
Parents quickly launch protest group, Keep Shelley Pyramid for our Children (KSP) amid concerns that Kirkburton and Scissett middle schools would become unviable.
OCTOBER: Hundreds of KSP supporters inundate MP Simon Reevell with complaints.
Hundreds turn out for protests in Kirkburton and Skelmanthorpe.
Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan speaks out against the plan saying it would “to lead to chaos and shambles”.
NOVEMBER: Kirklees Council announces a series of meetings and a consultation document for concerned parents.
Kirkburton Parish Council calls on Shelley College to withdraw its plan.
College chiefs claim middle school teaching is below par but figures provided in the official report are slammed as “irrelevant” by KSP.
MP Simon Reevell says there’s no proof that middle schools are failing and advises college to drop the plan.
Shelley College principal John McNally yesterday afternoon recommended that the proposal be withdrawn