PARENTS are celebrating after winning the fight to create a new school in their village.
But Kirklees Council’s education chief last night described the decision as a “disaster” which would deepen racial divisions.
The Government yesterday announced that the Birstall, Birkenshaw and Gomersal Community Trust can open a new free school next September.
The free school will be set up on the site of Birkenshaw Middle and will serve 750 young people.
Parents originally wanted Kirklees Council to establish a new high school in the village once the middle school system was abolished.
But the Labour-run council decided to expand high schools in Batley and Cleckheaton instead.
Parents from the Birstall area lobbied the Government to be allowed to set up a free school outside the influence of Kirklees.
Parents’ spokeswoman Lesley Surman said yesterday: “We are delighted that after four years of hard campaigning our efforts and the needs of our community have been recognised by the Government.
“Having been given the go-ahead we now intend to turn our plans into the reality of a new school.”
Birstall and Birkenshaw Conservative, Clr Robert Light, is also pleased with the decision.
“This is brilliant news,” he said. “The Government has recognised the strength of our case and the fact that the Labour-run council has discriminated against the area.”
Clr Light added that Birkenshaw parents did not want to send their children to large schools in neighbouring towns.
“The council was trying to force parents to send their children to a huge school in Batley, which none of them wanted to go to,” he said.
But Kirklees Cabinet member for schools, Clr Ken Smith was furious with the Government’s decision.
The Ashbrow Labour man said yesterday: “It’s a disaster for the area and it’s a prime example of the Government looking after the better-off.
“The decision will damage other schools and will create fairly complete racial divisions between schools.
“It’s a slap in the face for Kirklees residents.”
Kirklees Lib Dem leader Clr Kath Pinnock, who represents the neighbouring town of Cleckheaton, agreed.
She said: “This will mean multi-million pound expenditure on a school which is totally unnecessary.”
Clr Pinnock added that the parents’ group didn’t want to be convinced about the merits of Kirklees-controlled schools.
She said: “The community group – whatever they call themselves – were all at the election count last week wearing their blue rosettes.
“They are all Conservatives, they don’t want to be convinced to use Kirklees schools.”