Residents are being urged to make their views known on secondary school provision in Wetherby and Boston Spa.
Outrage was sparked last month when Boston Spa School head teacher Chris Walsh told parents that Leeds City Council was planning to close the site and build a new school in Wetherby, despite its application to join the Gorse Multi-Academy Trust.
Leeds City Council yesterday stated the “responsible” move was to keep a secondary school in Wetherby.
Steve Walker, director for children and families, told the Wetherby News: “We have a responsibility to plan school places at a city level.
“To enable us to take a strategic view on the long term implications of Boston Spa’s academy application, we asked Lord Agnew for some time to engage with communities who will be affected. We will be feeding back the outcomes of these conversations with Lord Agnew in due course.
“Our data leads us to believe only one school in the area is viable in the long term.
“The communities served by the current schools should have an opportunity to input to the planning of provision for decades to come.
“Wetherby is the largest centre of population in the area and we believe the responsible thing to do is ensure the town retains a secondary school in the future.”
This week Wetherby ward Councillors John Procter, Alan Lamb and Gerald Wilkinson backed the new community consultation but said pupil numbers were declining.
In a statement to the Wetherby News they said: “There is a real challenge around pupil numbers with families opting to send their children into North Yorkshire and a projected reduction in the number of pupils travelling to Boston Spa and Wetherby from parts of the inner city.
“That said, as your local ward councillors we remain open minded about school options moving forward and we are pleased that this consultation is starting this week, offering all local residents an opportunity to put forward their views and have a say on the future of secondary schooling in our ward.”
They added: “It is important to make clear that we sit on Leeds City Council but do not represent the council. We represent local residents and we are determined to do that to the best of our ability on this most important of issues.
“Indeed the role of the council in this has at times been less than helpful but this consultation does represent a sensible way forward that will enable communities across the ward to have their say.
“We encourage all residents to take part in this consultation and we will also be looking to hold a public meeting to give you the chance to discuss this face to face with us.”
Wetherby Town Council has called an extraordinary meeting to discuss secondary school provision on Saturday at noon in the Micklethwaite Room at Wetherby Town Hall.
The agenda states that councillors will consider the resolution that it supports the local authority proposal for one secondary school in Wetherby.
Debbie Young, of the Save our School (Boston Spa) group that was formed in response to their head teacher’s letter, said she was appalled at the latest notification from Wetherby Town Council about backing one school in Wetherby.
“This has caused distress and anger among many parents,” Debbie told the News.
On the consultation she added: “We’ve already been through consultation. As parents of children of Boston school, we were happy and fully supportive of the decision of our head teacher to join with TGAT.
“Any future plans, to combine or close one school, would be years away and no one from LCC seems to care about the current children going through the secondary school system.
“Our campaign has focused on improving the standards of education in this area and give our young people the best start in life, which Alec Shelbrooke MP supports.
“The councillors and council officials of Leeds have given us no indication that an outstanding education at Boston Spa is their priority, now or in the future.
“This has been shockingly disappointing but as parents we will not give up on our cause and will continue to represent our views at every possible opportunity.”
Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrook said he was supporting a broader consultation to encompass all views.
“When I spoke to the Minister of State I relayed to him that it is the desire of my constituents to have two outstanding schools in the community, delivering first-class education and supporting parental choice,” the MP told the News.
“The Minister has therefore asked Leeds City Council to undertake a short consultation on all the options for delivering education in the Outer North East. In reply, the Labour-run council has attempted to narrow this consultation to a discussion around delivering only one school in the area, with their preferred option being to close Boston Spa School. This is disappointing and I fully support the Minister’s request for a broader consultation so we can catch the views of all parents in our community.
“I will continue to press for a solution that delivers two great schools in our community because that is what my constituents have told me they want.”
* Click on the link for the Leeds City Council survey: https://surveys.leeds.gov.uk/s/QZHQK/