Anger over council’s school plans

CONSULTATION: Kirklees Council cabinet has agreed to listen to parents about the future of Birkenshaw First School.

CONSULTATION: Kirklees Council cabinet has agreed to listen to parents about the future of Birkenshaw First School.

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FRUSTRATED Birkenshaw governors could wrestle control of the first school from Kirklees Council by becoming an academy.

The council approved plans to move the first school onto the middle school, subject to a consultation, when the cabinet met on Tuesday night amid huge protests from governors, headteachers and parents.

The council’s plans also pose a problem for the BBG Academy Trust – a group of parents which wants to establish an independent, government-backed Free School – at the current middle school, to open in September 2013.

The proposals were originally given the green light on July 19, but a ‘procedural error’ by the council brought it back to the senior councillors once more.

First School headteacher Angela Holt spoke passionately against the move at this week’s cabinet meeting.

“At the last meeting I told you about the school, the facilities and our environment and I feel as strongly about it now as I did then,” she said.

“If you move the school to the middle school site, you will tear the heart out of it.”

She highlighted the children’s work on the environment and creating a sustainable school, which was met with applause. Chairman of governors Neil Auty told the cabinet that if it persisted in the plans to move it to the middle school site in Bradford Road, the governors would apply to the Department for Education to gain academy status.

That would mean it could stay where it was – and the middle school site would be available for the Free School.

Mr Auty also questioned the council’s costings for new buildings.

Council leader Coun Mehboob Khan said the consultation period – which should begin within weeks – could be used as a period of ‘reflection’ for both sides of the debate.

“This cabinet has shown we want to engage with you and look at all the possible options, and be reception to comments and constructive suggestions you have to make,” he said.

Coun Khan also brushed off criticism that the move was a deliberate attempt to block the parents’ Free School, an accusation made by campaigner Sharon Light.

She said: “The only reason you’re moving the first school is to take away our site.”