A SENIOR councillor has defended a controversial schools plan.
Kirklees Council’s Cabinet decided on Thursday to take the first legal steps to close Castle Hall School in Mirfield as part of a £200m reorganisation.
If the plan goes ahead, Mirfield Free Grammar will expand from 1,360 pupils to 1,500.
Yesterday (Friday) Cabinet member for young people Clr Ken Smith, defended the plan, which has caused uproar among parents.
He said: “We hear the feelings expressed. However, the key fact remains that most of the pupils attending the two secondary schools in Mirfield are from outside the area. Mirfield has a significant over provision of places.
“The Castle Hall site and building are unsuitable for the location of the one secondary school needed for the children in Mirfield.”
Clr Smith added: “The performance of Castle Hall is not as good as it should be. The progress made by pupils is consistently below the local and national averages.”
The Cabinet agreed on Thursday to take the first legal step to close Castle Hall, known as publication of statutory proposals. Clr Smith said: “We are very open to meet with people to talk frankly about our rationale, transition plans and the way forward.”
Clr Martyn Bolt, who represents Mirfield on Kirklees, vowed to continue fighting the closure plan.
The Conservative said: “As we move forward into the next phase I repeat the offer to work with anyone, no matter what their political affiliations, if they share my desire to retain Castle Hall for future generations. We have six weeks to once again mobilise support, not just for Castle Hall but also for Mirfield Free Grammar, which faces an uncertain future.”
The Cabinet also decided on Thursday to begin consulting parents, teachers and governors on other school changes, including increasing pupil numbers at Earlsheaton Technology College and Westborough High School in Dewsbury and Whitcliffe Mount in Cleckheaton. Their proposals also include a new sixth form college in Dewsbury town centre for 500 students.
But plans for Batley have not been finalised. Cabinet member for education Clr John Smithson said: “Proposals for the future of Batley Girls’ High School and Batley Business and Enterprise College have not yet been decided and this is still being consulted on an informal basis.”
Consultation on these parts of the plan will run from April 20 to June 5. The Cabinet will make a final decision on secondary schools in north Kirklees in July.
For more information on the plans visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/bsf. year.
A separate £200m plan for Huddersfield, Colne Valley, Holme Valley and Denby Dale is due later this year.