SHELLEY College’s radical expansion plans left the area’s two middle schools ‘gobsmacked’.

Staff and governors at the two schools were totally shocked by the academy’s plans to take Year 7 and 8 pupils.

According to Sue Lord and Graham Smith, chairs of governors for Scissett and Kirkburton middle schools, the news was broken not by the headteacher at Shelley College, but by Kirklees Council.

The headteachers of the two middle schools were called to a meeting on September 6 by John Edwards, Kirklees assistant director for learning. They were unaware of the reason and were shocked at what they were about to hear.

Mr Smith said: “The two headteachers came out of that meeting absolutely gobsmacked. They were shattered to hear that during the summer Shelley’s headteacher John McNally had gone to John Edwards to tell him about the Shelley proposal.

“That was the first time they had heard of it and there was complete and utter disbelief as well as offence that there had been no conversations beforehand. It has been like a bad dream.

“We utterly reject the statement that there has been active involvement with either of our schools.”

Sue Lord, a Scissett governor for 20 years and former head of publications and communications for Kirklees education services, added: “It was a bolt out of the blue.

“The two heads then met John McNally on September 17. The meeting lasted 20 minutes until Mr McNally walked out – he stopped answering their questions and left.”

Just after that, according to the two governors, Shelley science teachers stopped working alongside their middle school colleagues on a project to boost performance of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

This week Shelley launched its 18-page consultation document which criticises the standard of teaching in the two middle schools which Ofsted has rated as outstanding and good with outstanding features.

The governors said the middle school teachers had found this offensive and it was not borne out by the Ofsted reports.

They did, however, agree that a two-tier school system had been discussed years ago when money was available through the Building Schools for the Future programme. But since then, the money had dried up and Kirklees had given its support to the three-tier system in south Kirklees.

The north Kirklees Whitcliffe Mount middle school system has recently closed down following concerns about standard in some schools, but this is not the case with the Shelley Pyramid, where all but one of the 20 schools are rated as outstanding or good by Ofsted.

The governors claim that, had the matter been properly raised, they would have been happy to take part in a full and open debate as to which system would better serve the area’s children.

Mrs Lord, 69, said: “We are not even saying that the three-tier system is the best since sliced bread, we are saying that it works well within this area.

“High achieving pyramid schools work well together to turn out fantastic, articulate, well-rounded children who go to Shelley with confidence.”

Mr Smith, 60, who has been a Kirkburton governor for 20 years and has a background in finance for a multi-national company, said that if the proposals go ahead, they would have “huge financial implications for Kirklees.”

He claimed that it would inevitably lead to the closure of some schools, while leaving expensive buildings and facilities empty. He said any money given to Shelley College would mean less for schools still under the control of Kirklees Council.

He added: “Shelley is giving academies a bad name. This is the only circumstance we can find in the country of an aggressive attack by an academy on the local structure.”

The governors and headteachers are currently working on a formal response to the Shelley document. The resulting leaflet will be mailed to every parent in the pyramid by Kirklees Council.

The governors urged all parents to take an active part in the debate by attending one of the public meetings organised by Kirklees or writing to Shelley college, Kirklees Council or their MP.

Simon Reevell has already received 330 letters on the matter from his constituents.

Kirklees Council’s Shelley feedback form can be found online at

THE FORMER head of Scissett Middle School has rebutted Shelley College’s version of events leading up to its controversial expansion plans.

Mick Moriarty has vehemently denied claims made by Shelley vice-principal Steve Harrington that the proposals were openly discussed within the Shelley Pyramid over the last eight years.

Mr Moriarty, 63, taught at Scissett for 27 years and was headteacher from 2002 until he retired at the end of 2010. He claims there were never any discussions between the two schools about a single point of transfer for pupils.

“I categorically deny that any meetings of that nature ever took place,” he said.

Mr Moriarty invited the Shelley principal John McNally, who took over in January 2010, to Scissett and a number of meetings took place between September and December 2010. He said he was very impressed with his new colleague.

Mr Moriarty said: “We were looking at closer co-operation and ways of supporting pupils, even to the point of sharing teachers and forming a collaborative trust and Mr McNally was very interested.”

The Shelley principal even organised a trip for the two heads and Evelyne Barrow, headteacher at St Aidan’s First School, to see how Ossett High School’s collaborative trust worked with its primary schools.

Mr Moriarty retired confident in the knowledge that the collaboration was going to be even better than before.

He said: “The two-tier system absolutely never came into our conversations.

“My first reaction to the Shelley proposal was that I was stunned. My experience of John McNally was very positive and I genuinely believed he was keen to work in a collaborative system to the benefit of pupils.”

Mr Moriarty criticised the Shelley consultation document as “really vague,” claiming that many of the promises on offer such as breakfast clubs and after-school activities were already happening every week at Scissett.

He added: “Scissett is an outstanding school. Parents understand that and have been unwavering in their support for the school. Shelley will never be able to match that with over 2,000 kids.

“If the proposal goes through it will ultimately lead to closures and a very, very slow death for some schools which would be the worst of both worlds.

“Shelley College can then take pupils out of the area, but can’t guarantee a place for Year 9s in the middle school system. What’s that? It’s a threat.”

Mr Moriarty has written to MP Simon Reevell, Education Secretary Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary Stephen Twigg and the Education Funding Agency to voice his concerns.

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