EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove toured a Mirfield school as part of a trip to promote his flagship academy programme.
The Tory minister visited Castle Hall Academy last Friday and met with principal Andy Pugh and other local academy principals Lorraine Barker (Mirfield Free Grammar) and John McNally (Shelley).
Accompanied by Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell, Mr Gove was greeted at the gates by a small group of Labour Party protestors waving placards, one of which read ‘Gove must go.’
Castle Hall had been threatened with closure until it converted to an academy and moved out of Kirklees Council’s control two years ago.
After touring the school with head boy and girl Nathaniel Denham-Bosah and Olivia Ross, he championed the Government's academy programme and said: “The best people to run schools are headteachers.
“What the academy and free schools programme allows is for great headteachers to take more control of what happens in their schools.
“We have three headteachers here, all of whom have been responsible for generating improved results and better outcomes for children because they use their freedoms.
“There are many excellent maintained schools which prove it is perfectly possible to succeed, but the academy system gives you more freedom as a headteacher.”
Castle Hall principal Mr Pugh backed up the minister's support for the roll-out of academies, saying: “You are asking questions in a school the local authority wanted to shut down, notwithstanding the results it was achieving.
“We have maintained meetings, learning together and sharing good ideas across secondary schools in the area.
“I don’t think any of us saw conversion to academy status as leaving the state sector behind.”
Mirfield Free Grammar principal Lorraine Barker was pleased with the opportunity to quiz the Education Secretary on the curriculum, funding and exams.
Mrs Barker said: “He said he wanted to listen to the foot soldiers and it was a good opportunity to put our points across.”
Mr Gove was in Mirfield as part of a whistlestop tour of academies across West Yorkshire, in seats being targeted by the Tories at the next General Election.
He also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the refurbishment of Castle Hall’s three-storey building.