THE CREATION of a Multi-Academy Trust in Otley could lead to 'a loss of local control and accountability'.

That was the thrust of a resolution passed at Otley Town Council's Policy and Resources Committee meeting this week.

Prince Henry's Grammar School and Bramhope Primary are proposing to become founding members of a new Trust (MAT) that they believe will deliver mutual benefits - and grow to include other schools.

Otley's MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West), however, and the town's three ward councillors have all expressed reservations.

Now the Town Council has officially noted its concerns, which include worries about the future allocation of places at Prince Henry's.

The resolution approved on Monday, June 11 by 17 councillors - with one abstention - states: "That the town council regrets the loss of local control and accountability which are a consequence of the formation of school Multi-Academy Trusts, and continues to oppose this Government policy.

"That, with reference to the formation of a Multi-Academy Trust between Prince Henry’s Grammar School and Bramhope Primary School, we share the concerns expressed by our local community in relation to the availability of places at Prince Henry's for Otley residents’ children.

"And, we seek a guarantee from the new Multi-Academy Trust that any child residing in Otley wishing to attend Prince Henry’s should be guaranteed a place in the new Trust."

Speaking afterwards, town council Chair Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) said: "Town councillors have expressed their concern, which echo those already expressed by our ward Councillors Colin Campbell, Ryk Downes and Sandy Lay, about the loss of local control and accountability that follows the creation of MATs.

"Our primary concern, expressed in this resolution, is about the future availability of places at Prince Henry's for Otley's children.

"We recognise that Prince Henry's has sought to reassure our community but the reality is that our community is not reassured.

"It requires guarantees from the governing body of the new MAT which we hope will come forward when they consult on their proposed new allocations policy later this year."

A consultation on the MAT plan concluded in May and the governing bodies of both schools have now agreed to proceed to the next stage.

In the consultation report they state that: "This will include a robust due diligence process covering finance, HR, legal and organisational information."

If they then agree to form the MAT - which would see Bramhope Primary converting to Academy status - the earliest date it could be implemented would be September 1, 2018.

Any changes to the admissions criteria for Prince Henry's would also go out to consultation this autumn, and take effect in September, 2020.

Headteacher Janet Sheriff however, responding previously to concerns about potential admissions policy changes, stressed that the MAT would not disadvantage other local pupils.

She said: "It is important to note...that any proposal will definitely not be detrimental to any Otley School or any other school where Prince Henry’s is their closest secondary."