SHELLEY College governors are convinced that their decision to accept younger pupils at their academy will be the right one.
They also claim that it is a well recognised fact that the middle school system, which involves a double transition for pupils, leads to a dip in their performance.
Chairman of governors Mrs Alwyn Cooper said: “Some of the pupils currently have gaps in their skills and knowledge when they arrive at Shelley in Year 9.
“You just have to look at the GCSE results we have been achieving here. Our last Ofsted inspection was quite a while ago in March 2010 and we believe we are now an outstanding school.
“We believed the proposal was in the best interest of all – and we still do at the moment. We are confident the decision we will make will be the right one for the area.
“We would not have gone down this road if we did not think it was in the best interest of all the children.
“Shelley Pyramid would not crumble. There would be an option of two or three tiers and we would be offering one of those options.”
Mrs Cooper, who lives at Skelmanthorpe and has been a governor for 12 years, said the governors had acted promptly as soon as they became involved.
It was at the governors’ meeting of June 28 when college principal John McNally first outlined his plans for a two-tier system.
The meeting was attended by six of the then 13 governors. Five voted for the proposal and one abstained.
Mrs Cooper added: “We decided it was something which we wanted to pursue because we could see the advantages to children within the Pyramid. It would increase parental choice, improve standards and bring us in line with the rest of the country.”
Governors’ vice chairman Mr Nick Wilson, of Cumberworth, said: “Nearly 2,000 middle schools have been closed nationally – one transition is better than two.
“There are thousands of kids who already go from small primary schools to large secondary schools in Kirklees and they thrive on it. There is a rise in the level of expectancy from primary to secondary schools.”
He added that he was trying to respond individually to everyone who had contacted him personally on the matter.
The governors said that, if necessary, Years 7 and 8 could be smaller intakes as it would not be financially viable to hold places open for children from middle schools who might join in Year 9.
Speaking of the public response to the Shelley proposal, Mrs Cooper said that the governors had been “surprised by the nastiness which has come forward.’’
She added: “We thought it would be more professional. The personal attacks on John McNally (Shelley College principal) have been quite shocking.
“People need to concentrate on replying to the consultation in the appropriate manner because that is what we will be looking at.”
There is a public meeting at the college on December 17 and the consultation process ends on January 18. The governors will meet on January 24 to look at the responses, which will remain confidential.
It will be up to the governors whether or not to take into account the views of people who have not responded.
Mr Wilson said: “There is a silent majority – nobody protests in favour of a proposal. I am a bit concerned that he who shouts loudest gets heard.”
The governors are encouraging people of whatever viewpoint to lodge their comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Mrs M Worsley at Shelley College, Huddersfield Road, Huddersfield HD8 8NL.
They are requesting that people do not copy and paste circulated letters, but that they make their individual opinions known.
Mrs Wilson added: “The scheme is not a done deal. We are not in a position to judge how many people are for or against the proposal until the end of the consultation period on January 18.
“It is crystal ball time until then.”
The governors will decide in February whether to take the proposal forward to Education Secretary Michael Gove for approval.
Shelley College has engaged PR consultant Carol Hirst on a part-time basis.
Mrs Hirst, who used to work for the NHS, has been taken on for one day a week to help the college prepare for the public meeting on December 17.
There were some 1,800 middle schools in Britain 30 years ago.
Today there are less than 200.
The West Riding of Yorkshire was one of the first authorities to introduce this type of school and Kirklees is now the only borough in Yorkshire still to have middle schools. They are at Birkenshaw, Scissett and Kirkburton.
Birkenshaw Middle School is due to close in August 2013. This follows the closure of three middle schools in the Cleckheaton areas earlier this year.
The middle school system is also known as the three-tier system as children progress from first school through middle to secondary school.
Shelley College is the secondary school at the top of Shelley Pyramid, which involves one nursery, 16 first schools and two middle schools.
The Pyramid educates 4,450 children, of which 1,400 attend Shelley College. Many English local authorities are currently reviewing the position of middle schools.
A further 46, including Birkenshaw, are scheduled for closure in the summer of 2013.