Council promises public will have a say over bid by Birstall, Birkenshaw and Gomersal Parents' Alliance

Lib Dem and Tory disagree over Birkenshaw free school decision

Councillor Kath Pinnock

Councillor Robert Light

First published in Local by

A Government decision to approve a new-style free school has divided opinion in the area.

Long-campaigning Birstall, Birkenshaw and Gomersal Parents’ Alliance moved a step closer to opening an independent secondary school on the site of Birkenshaw Middle School by winning the go-ahead from the Department for Education (DfE) last week.

But Cleckheaton Councillor Kath Pinnock said she was “disappointed” in the move, which she said would have a wider impact on schools across the Kirklees district.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said: “I think the impact of the free school needs to be discussed and understood by everybody in the local area.

“The letter from the Secretary of State says the school would be for 800 pupils. Obviously that means the children who go to that school will be taken from existing secondary schools, one of which is Whitcliffe Mount in Cleckheaton.

"It will potentially reduce the size of Whitcliffe Mount and that has a knock-on effect to the future viability of the school.”

But Councillor Robert Light (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said: “The facts are the school is needed because the Council has failed to recognise the needs of the community.

“We haven’t got a school now. We believe in community-based education at a comprehensive school to serve the community within two miles’ distance.”

John Edwards, assistant director for learning at Kirklees Council, said: “We are closely following the progress of the proposal and awaiting further news from the Department for Education.

“We are committed to working with all schools in the area, and also the DfE, to ensure we have an effective and well-supported family of schools.

“Local people, the council and existing schools will all have a chance to express their views.”

Bradford’s Asian Trade Link has also been given the go-ahead to set up a free school, with a focus on English, maths, science and social cohesion, which it wants to open next year.

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