"Don't rush to shut school" pleads head

Issue 438

COUNCILLORS should wait until the Government reveals its spending review before deciding to close a Dewsbury school, a head teacher has said.
Birkdale High chief Christine Caraher told Kirklees councillors on Wednesday that more cash might be available to soften the blow of cuts elsewhere.
Speaking at the full meeting of Kirklees Council at Cleckheaton Town Hall she said ploughing ahead with controversial closure plans may prove to be premature.
Mrs Caraher delivered the warning following a council review into which parts of a failed £200 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) plan can be saved.
Birkdale’s proposed closure under the original bid was confirmed by the review and now only needs to be sanctioned by the council’s Cabinet.
Mrs Caraher told councillors not to make any hasty decisions and said:  “The Government will announce its spending review in October.
“There is the possibility of further funding streams for education. Surely it makes sense to wait for these announcements before making final decisions?
“This is about the next 50 years of education in Dewsbury and North Kirklees. We must get this right. We ask that you take time to reconsider.
“We believe you should not feel bound by a closure notice made with BSF funding. Can you afford to make a mistake because you acted too quickly?”
She added councillors should use the time between now and the spending review to reconsider their position regardless of any new funding.
Mrs Caraher pointed to Birkdale High’s transformation into a school praised by inspectors as ‘good’ as the key reason for keeping it open.
Birkdale, once in special measures, saw a massive improvement in the GCSE pass rate this year from 38 per cent to 64 per cent.
The original BSF plan was for Birkdale High to close by September 2013, with the pupils going to an expanded Westborough High instead.
A review of the failed BSF bid confirmed Kirklees Council’s plan to axe Birkdale  despite no funding being available for new buildings at Westborough.
It means there may be a future for the Birkdale site, which could reopen as a campus of Westborough to deal with overcrowding.
Mrs Caraher said: “We know Westborough is full. Relocating our 450 students will prove difficult.
“Extra places in other schools are not readily available.
“The students at Birkdale will continue to make good progress. We even maintain a balanced budget and have removed a budget deficit of £400,000.
“Is it worth creating uncertainty among pupils and staff by making a split site school where standards will fall and the economies will not be achieved?”

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