IT’S all change again for the future of Kirklees schools as the council plans another massive shake-up.
Kirklees Council has done a U-turn on plans for North Kirklees Schools claiming they have been forced to do so because of Government funding cuts.
However, Conservative councillor Robert Light has accused the council of being “party political,” ignoring the views of local people and trying to block the construction of a new “free” high school to be run by parents.
Original council plans included the closure of Birkenshaw Middle School and extension of the two First schools in the area – Birkenshaw CE First and Nursery and East Bierley CE – to make room for the older children from the middle school.
Plans also included a new high school Academy at Howden Clough.
And the Birstall, Birkenshaw and Gomersal (BBG) Parents’ Alliance pushed ahead with plans to build a new high school on the site of the former Birkenshaw Middle School.
The Birkenshaw school would have been one of 16 Tory “free schools” which have been given initial approval to open next September under the control of parents and teachers.
Now the new plans are set to be considered next week by the council’s Cabinet.
Mr Warwick Firmin, a senior manager in charge of schools organisation at the council, set out the new plans yesterday.
He said they no longer had the £7m to refurbish Birkenshaw First and Nursery School in order to make it into an all-through primary school.
So after Birkenshaw Middle School was closed, the First School would be relocated there, where there was more room.
Meanwhile, at East Bierley CE School, from 2013 it is proposed that the annual intake of reception children would be reduced from 30 to 20 to cope with the extra children.
And in order to accommodate extra numbers in the short term, temporary classroom space would be provided.
He said it now wouldn’t be possible to create a new Academy at Howden Clough because the funding was lost and the government had recently granted Batley Girls’ High School Academy status.
And if Birkenshaw Middle School closes as still planned, then Year 7 and 8 pupils would go to Whitcliffe Mount Specialist Business and Enterprise College.
As part of the U-turn Birkenshaw First and Nursery School would be re-located to the Birkenshaw Middle School site where the BBG Parents’ Alliance want to build.
Councillor Light told the Examiner he believes that Kirklees Council has reneged on the original plans in order to block the BBG Parents’ Alliance building the new “free” school.
He said: “I’m absolutely gob-smacked that the council have chosen to once again ignore the views of the local parents.
“The council is doing all this to stop BBG and it is just petulant politics gone mad.
“It is not being done with education or the children or value for money in mind.And the children’s education is going to suffer.
“If the council is going to continue this game it seems to be playing then we will continue to fight them.”
Since the original plans were agreed last year the Government has scrapped the Building Schools for the Future programme and the Primary Capital Programme (PCP) funding.
Mr Firmin said if Cabinet members provisionally agree the new proposals then a consultation process will begin in order to hear the views of local people.
He said: “We are concerned about the level of uncertainty that parents feel in this situation in general.
“We’ve been in the hands of other people making these decisions and we want to give families as much certainty as possible and give the best deal to the young people of Kirklees that we can.
“We made a commitment to get as much certainty into the schools by the end of term and be in a position to start moving forward on some of these things.”