Cabinet faces angry schools critics

ANGRY parents blasted Kirklees Council’s cabinet during a heated debate in Dewsbury about controversial school plans.
Council leader Coun Mehboob Khan (Lab) was booed and jeered when he tried to pin a mixed sex places row on the coalition Government. He was speaking at a marathon fiveandahalfhour cabinet meeting held at the town hall on Tuesday, which attracted scores of campaigners motivated by two linked issues.
The Labour administration met to formally revoke plans for a coeducational academy at Batley Girls’ High School.
They also voted to approve a scheme to move Birkenshaw First and Nursery to the site of Birkenshaw Middle.
Birkenshaw Middle, which is to close in 2013, is wanted by the Birkenshaw, Birstall and Gomersal Parents Alliance (BBGPA) for a 750pupil academy. The school, known as BBG High and already approved by the Government, could be a way to solve the mixed sex places row in Birstall. But Labour have been accused by campaigners of trying to block BBG High with a plan to turn Birkenshaw Middle’s site into an allthrough primary.
BBGPA’s scheme could now be in doubt as, while they have another site in mind nearer Cleckheaton, it would cost millions to build from scratch.
On the mixed sex places row, Coun Khan blamed education secretary Michael Gove for accepting an academy bid from Batley Girls’ High.
He claimed that had the Howden Clough school still been the council’s they would have gone ahead with plans for a coed academy there.
Coun Khan said: “Michael Gove scuppered our plans because he could have stopped the academy at Batley Girls’ High. We could have given him a coeducational academy on the same site. This has become a really divisive issue in Birstall and Batley.
“I challenge the national Tory leaders to come to this town hall to give their reasons as to why they’ve taken the decisions the have.”
Kirklees Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw), a supporter of BBGPA, shouted several times: “You’re a liar, Khan!”
The meeting ground to a halt for a short time when boos and catcalls starting ringing out from campaigners in the public seats. About 200 parents and children attended the meeting, with dozens making statements and asking questions of the cabinet.
Earlier suggestions that Batley Business and Enterprise College could be made coeducational were dismissed due to ‘legal issues’.
Coun Ken Smith (Lab), a former education portfolio holder who now has the resources brief, said more places could be funded at Batley Grammar instead.
The private school is joining the state sector as a mixed sex academy from September, but only a limited number of new places are currently available.
Coun David Sheard (Lab), cabinet member for investment, also stuck the boot into the Government.
He said: “Mr Gove makes the decisions, but we have to come out and face the public and take responsibility for it.
“Batley Girls’ High has gone its own sweet way. The Government has taken the money away and has effectively taken one of the school sites we needed. We as a cabinet have to deal with the consequences of what Mr Gove has decided. We all have to accept reality. We have no real choice whatsoever.”

Pictured cabinet face the public

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