ANGRY parents confronted councillors who want to shut a top performing school last night.
Kirklees Council’s education chief, Clr John Smithson, was repeatedly heckled at a packed meeting at Dewsbury Town Hall last night, as he described closure-threatened Castle Hall School in Mirfield as “coasting”.
The school is the highest performing comprehensive in North Kirklees.
The Labour/ Lib Dem coalition Cabinet had called the meeting to approve consultation on a controversial £200m schools plan for north Kirklees which includes closing Castle Hall.
But before the nine-strong group could get to that decision, they were subjected to dozens of questions from angry parents and pupils among the audience of around 200 people.
The Wilkinson family from Mirfield were among the many questioners.
Jasmine, 11, who goes to Castle Hall, asked councillors: “It’s well-known that Castle Hall is the most successful non-selective school in north Kirklees. Could you please explain how closing it could possibly help educational attainment in Kirklees?”
Later Jasmine’s mother Jacqui asked: “How can the council justify removing parental choice in Mirfield?”
Jasmine’s father Alan added: “It’s a fact that Castle Hall achieves better GCSE results than any other non-selective school in north Kirklees.”
But Clr Smithson, Cabinet member for education, cast doubt on the claim.
The Almondbury Lib Dem told the meeting: “Castle Hall is a coasting school. Its intake includes some very, very bright children, the problem is there’s very little addition to their performance. That’s a fact.”
The Cabinet also heard from Batley parents angry that the schools plan contains no proposal for a single-sex school in the town. Parents from Birkenshaw also asked why a previous proposal for a brand new high school in their town had been dropped.
The Cabinet meeting had been called to approve the plan and move on to consultation with some of the parents affected between April 20 and June 5. The cabinet will make a final decision on the plan in July.
In January Labour and the Lib Dems ousted the minority Conservative Cabinet because of the Tory plan for schools in north Kirklees.
Meanwhile, Brian Nicholson, chair of governors at Castle Hall, has written to all 69 Kirklees councillors to defend the school.
He said that council reports into schools in north Kirklees did not give Castle Hall enough credit.
Mr Nicholson said: “The reports fail to provide a balanced picture by letting councillors see what Castle Hall School is achieving:
The highest standards of any comprehensive school in North Kirklees with 57% of students gaining 5 good GCSEs including English and mathematics.
The lowest truancy figures of any comprehensive school in Kirklees.
485 parents named the school for their child despite the uncertainty over its future.
“These achievements are the result of being a smaller school, something which is effectively ignored by the reports presented to councillors.”
A separate proposal is expected later for schools in Huddersfield, Colne Valley, Holme Valley and Denby Dale.