A ‘waste’ of public money

CRITICS of Birkenshaw Academy claim the new school will be ‘a scandalous waste of public money’ that is ‘unnecessary’ for the Spen Valley.

Education Secretary Michael Gove last week approved the business case put forward by the BBG Community Trust, which means the proposed 750-place free school in Birkenshaw could open by September 2013.

The group hopes to use the Birkenshaw Middle School site and during discussions with education provider Serco it was revealed the plan could cost £10m.

Coun Kath Pinnock has criticised the government’s decision to fund the school when spending cuts are being felt everywhere.

“It’s a scandalous waste of public money when there’s no money around. We are in hard times with cuts everywhere, yet somehow money can be found for a school that’s not necessary. It might be wanted but it’s not needed,” Coun Pinnock said.

“There’s a backlog of school building repairs of up to £80m across Kirklees.

“To spend £10m on a wanted but unnecessary school is not fair or a good use of public money.”

Coun Pinnock said the new school could have a ‘devastating effect’ on both Whitcliffe Mount and Spen Valley Sports College if pupil numbers dwindled over the next few years.

She added: “Parents who have contacted me so far are all saying this is not good news for either Cleckheaton or Gomersal children.

“They want Birkenshaw children to continue coming to Whitcliffe Mount as they’ve been doing for years.”

Whitcliffe head teacher John McGee has also questioned the need for the school.

He said: “We have kept Birkenshaw in our planned admission area and the pupils from the village are welcome to come here. We have places for them and we are a successful school.”

However, BBG Parents’ spokeswoman Lesley Surman believes the group’s plan offers parental choice that does not exist at the moment.

She said: “The children of Birkenshaw or East Bierley do not have another option for a high school. Parents have the right to a choice of where to send their children.”

l Pupils celebrate Ofsted success page 30.