COUNCILLORS have just revealed their plans for schools in north Kirklees.
The latest proposal would see Castle Hall in Mirfield close - despite a massive campaign by pupils, parents and teachers to keep it open.
The new Labour-Lib Dem Cabinet unveiled its plan at 6pm to spend £200m of Government cash on schools in Mirfield, Dewsbury, Batley and the Spen Valley.
Parents, teachers and governors will be consulted on the proposal after Easter, with a final decision due later this year.
The plan includes closing Castle Hall and Birkdale High in Dewsbury. Batley Girls High would become a co-educational school for 1,350 pupils.
Labour and the Lib Dems toppled the Conservatives in January because they were unhappy with the Tory schools plan.
However - like the original Conservative plan - Labour and the Lib Dems have today proposed closing Castle Hall.
There are some differences with the original Tory plan. Labour and the Lib Dems have not proposed opening a new high school in Birkenshaw - a highly controversial part of the Conservative plan.
The coalition Cabinet has also proposed retaining St John Fisher Sixth Form in Dewsbury and opening a new sixth form college in the town centre.
Next page: Full Kirklees Council press release on the changes.
Have your say on the proposals in our forum below. We will print a selection in the Examiner newspaper.
Full transcript of the Kirklees Council press release:
Kirklees Cabinet will meet next week to decide on their plans for £200 million of investment in secondary schools across North Kirklees.
On Thursday March 12, the Labour / Liberal Democrat Cabinet group will consider a report which outlines the following proposals for 11 to 16-year-olds:
? A school for 1350 pupils on Howden Clough site (Batley Girls High School - Visual Arts College site)
? Extensive investment and development of Whitcliffe Mount Specialist and Business Enterprise College (VC) for 1500 pupils
? Extensive investment and development of Earlsheaton Technology College for 1350 pupils
? Extensive investment and development of Westborough High School for 1200 pupils
If the proposals are approved, a statutory consultation will follow from Monday April 20 to Friday June 5 to give everyone the opportunity to attend an event, discuss the plans and let the council know their views.
As part of the reorganisation, the report also outlines the following school proposals which are recommended to proceed to statutory notice.
These proposals would therefore not be re-consulted on:
? Extensive investment and development to expand Mirfield Free Grammar to 1500 places
? Closure of Castle Hall School and Specialist Language College (as part of the above reorganisation of schools in Mirfield and the surrounding area)
? Extensive investment and development to expand Spen Valley Sports College to 1200 places
? Extensive investment and development to expand The Community Science College @ Thornhill to 1200 places
The report also considers the creation of a sixth form college based in Dewsbury with an initial intake of 400 to 500 students with a view to expansion.
Further discussions are ongoing to finalise the detailed proposal for 1350 11 to 16-year-olds on the Batley Field Hill site (Batley Business and Enterprise College site) to be followed by a statutory consultation in the summer term.
Cllr John Smithson, joint lead member for Kirklees Children and Young People Service, said: "There is a serious and urgent need to significantly improve and enhance the overall educational opportunities and achievements of all our children and young people.
"Over the last month we have visited every high school in North Kirklees and give full credit to the management and governance of our existing high schools,who have achieved some impressive advances in recent years.
"Despite these efforts, however, standards are not improving fast enough.
"The current pattern of school provision and resourcing in North
Kirklees is not achieving its potential, and the much-needed improvement in standards cannot be made without us making radical changes."
Cllr Ken Smith, joint lead member for Kirklees Children and Young
People Service, said: "We have worked continuously with council officers and believe that an average size of 1350 school places, with a minimum of 1200 to a maximum of 1500, is the right approach.
"Too many of our high schools currently struggle to achieve financial stability, which can seriously restrict the range of curriculum provision and student support.
"We need to have high schools that are financially viable, offer a full and broad curriculum and feel welcoming and comfortable to all students.
"If agreed, we promise to conduct this consultation openly and effectively to maximise the value Kirklees can gain from Building Schools for the Future. This really is our chance to turn proposals into action and create real, tangible benefits for our children and young people."
Cabinet will meet again in July to discuss the consultation outcomes and make a decision on the future of secondary education in North Kirklees.
A further report detailing the proposals for primary provision in the Whitcliffe Mount pyramid should be presented to Cabinet in April.
Next page: Reaction from Mirfield MP Shahid Malik and on Page 4 Conservative council group leader Jim Dodds give his thoughts on the announcement.
In a statement Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Shahid Malik, said although he was very pleased that the council had agreed some of the proposals put together by the MP, headteachers and governors from across Dewsbury and Mirfield, he was angry that Kirklees had decided to stick with the Conservative proposal to close Castle Hall.
“I’m obviously pleased that the Conservative proposals to close Thornhill and the St John Fisher sixth form have been scrapped. Likewise, I’m pleased they have listened to my call for a dedicated sixth form college, something the Conservatives rejected, and have also scrapped the Conservative plan to build a 1650 place school on the Westborough site which would have been a traffic nightmare.”
However, Mr Malik said he would challenge the Kirklees decision not to consult further on the Castle Hall closure adding: “Although it may be correct that no further consultation is legally required, it is clear the initial consultation process by the Conservative administration was seriously flawed and fairness would demand a proper consultation for Castle Hall. I personally believe that Mirfield has room for two successful schools working collaboratively to deliver a broad curriculum.”
“I’m angry that the new administration has stuck with the Conservative proposals for Mirfield. Closing Castle Hall and enlarging the Mirfield Free Grammar might well please the new Conservative leader Jim Dodds but it will rightly anger and upset the majority of people in Mirfield.”
Mr Malik added: “I have arranged to meet with the Castle Hall school community on Friday to decide how we fight the proposal.”
In a statement, Kirklees Council conservative group leader Jim Dodds said:
"This is a complete sham. Cllr Pinnock labelled our original proposals last September as being a ‘dogs dinner’ but she clearly had no better alternative up her sleeve.
"Six months down the line she and her cohorts have come up with proposals that reflect 80% of that same ‘dogs dinner’.
"The Lib/Lab pact have completely ignored public opinion which was registered in the comprehensive consultation that took place,consultation that saw the Conservative Group revise their proposals which subsequently prompted their downfall as the Cabinet controlling the Council.
"The whole point of consultation is that people have a voice which is heard and appropriate changes are made. The Lib/Lab pact have made it clear they will listen to no-one and do as they see fit.
"The new proposals fudge the issue of single sex education in Batley and try to sweeten the bitter pill of no school in Birkenshaw with the shallow promise that the site will be retained for education purposes.
"I don’t hold out much hope for that promise, and the people of Birkenshaw, Gomersal, Birstall and East Bierley will be rightly appalled at this cop out.
"Parents who campaigned for Castle Hall will be just as appalled. They enlisted the support of their MP Shahid Malik only to find he is incapable of even securing the support of Labour’s council leader Cllr Mehboob Khan who is happy to recommend the closure of Castle Hall.
"The new proposals from the Lib/Lab administration are a real kick in the teeth for the people of North Kirklees – I hope they get the response they deserve.
"At the end of the day our children have only one chance at school, and the Lib/Lab pact is failing many of our children in many areas of north Kirklees."