LEADERS and governors at Shelley College have a dream.

They want to create an exceptional school for 11 to 18-year-olds to match the best in the country.

It would have a new science block with 14 classrooms and up to 10 laboratories, expanded language facilities, outstanding ICT (information and communication technologies) resources, first class sports areas and outstanding teachers.

This is the Utopian vision of the future presented by Shelley College vice principals Steve Harrington and Dave Wadsworth during the week in which their expansion plans have been formally launched in an 18-page consultation document entitled Improving Standards, Increasing Choice.

Mr Harrington said: “I think we could build the best facilities to match any school in the country – it would be tremendous for all pupils across the curriculum.

“That is the dream and the best way to fulfil that dream is through opening up the possibilities of taking pupils aged 11 to 18.”

The Examiner had requested an interview with headteacher Mr John McNally, but instead the college offered the chance to speak to the two vice principals instead.

Mr Harrington said: “It is important to get the point across that the proposal (to take Year 7 and 8 pupils) is not just one man’s campaign. It is the result of extensive discussions made through the governing body and the school’s leadership team.

“We think we have a proposal which is worthy to be consulted upon. It is not a decision which has been arrived at suddenly or lightly.”

The school’s leaders want to build on the dramatic improvement in academic standards seen over the last three years at Shelley. They believe that the best way of doing this is to take pupils two years earlier at the age of 11.

Shelley’s GCSE pass rates are currently at least 16% higher than national benchmarks. In 2009, only 54% of students gained five GCSE grades A* to C, including English and maths, compared with 81% this year.

The results for five GCSE passes in any subject are even more impressive, having risen from 71% of pupils three years ago to 98% this year.

In contrast, the college claims that Key Stage 2 (ages seven-11) results are currently about 6% below the national average and that Year 8 teacher assessments are flatlining in the Shelley Pyramid schools.

The vice principals flatly denied their plans had been announced without previous discussions with their Shelley Pyramid partners.

Mr Harrington said: “For the last eight years I have been in meetings where the idea of moving to a single point of transfer for pupils has been on the table. At no point was this hidden.

“People are venting their anger and are upset. We feel they have been included in discussions within local authority meetings and within the pyramid.

“Academically, the pupils are not as stretched and as challenged as they should be when they arrive.”

He claims that the ‘clear steer’ from Kirklees Council had been towards a two-tier education system in the borough and that the Whitcliffe Mount Pyramid in north Kirklees had recently been disbanded.

This led to the closure of the three north Kirklees middle schools – Gomersal, West End and Whitechapel – on August 31 this year. The primary schools either expanded or stayed the same.

Mr Harrington continued: “The middle school system is flawed and is becoming an increasingly anomalous concept nationally.

“I had a good working relationship with the pyramid middle schools. They are good teachers and good people.”

Mr Wadsworth added: “We want the best possible outcome for the children. We have done that over the past couple of years, but want to get to the next level.

“It is the system which is holding some students back and – like it or not – the national data backs it up.”

The vice principals stresses that pastoral care was as important as academic results and, if the plans go ahead, extra non-teaching pastoral staff would be taken on.

They also claim that none of the extra funding would go towards inflating salaries, which are unregulated since the school became an academy.

They stated that the school follows national pay scales and “would be foolish” to do differently.

The statutory consultation period, runs until Friday, January 18.

Views should be made in writing to Mrs M Worsley, Shelley College, Huddersfield Road, Huddersfield HD8 8NL or by email to:


A consultation document can be downloaded at:


THE three-tier or middle school system was introduced into Britain in the 1960s and 70s.

In Kirklees, the first schools take pupils from Year 1 to Year 5 (ages five to nine). There are 17 first schools in the Shelley Pyramid.

Scissett and Kirkburton middle schools take Year 6 to Year 8 pupils (aged 10 to 13). There are currently 1,057 children in the two middle schools.

Shelley College currently takes pupils from Year 9 to Year 14 (aged 13 to 18).

If Shelley’s plans to accept Year 7 and 8 pupils go ahead, it is unclear where this would leave the middle schools. In north Kirklees they have just closed down and the primary schools have expanded to accept the Year 6 pupils.

The number of middle schools nationally is declining.

Shelley College became an academy in September 2011 and therefore moved out of Kirklees Council’s control.

Once the consultation period is over the governors will decide whether to go ahead with the plans.

If they still want to proceed, they will put the proposal to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, who will have the final say.

Next ... interviews with Graham Smith and Sue Lord, the chairs of governors at Kirkburton and Scissett Middle Schools. Sue worked for Kirklees Education Services from 1992 to 2007 where she was in charge of consultation and publications

Kirklees Council’s £11m summer school works project dubbed a success: Click here to read