Yorkshire MP and head end row over school future

Campaigners have put up banners in Boston Spa.
Campaigners have put up banners in Boston Spa.

A Yorkshire MP embroiled in a row with a headteacher over controversial plans to merge two schools has stressed their divisions have been resolved after discussions spilled over into a public spat.

Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke was caught up in a war of words with Boston Spa High School’s principal Chris Walsh after the plans emerged to move pupils to Wetherby.

However, Mr Shelbrooke has now spoken out in support of the acadamisation of Boston Spa, which would mean the school would remain open. He told The Yorkshire Post that as an MP who voted for the Academies Act in 2010, he “fully supported” the application submitted by Boston Spa High School.

He said: “I believe that Boston Spa and Wetherby High Schools can have positive futures ahead of them and I will continue working closely with the headteachers and governing bodies.”

Mr Walsh said both himself and governors had conversed over email with Mr Shelbrooke after the argument broke out, and added: “I am very pleased to read Alec Shelbrooke’s public statement and I have been overwhelmed by the support of our community for the conversion of Boston Spa to TGAT (The Gorse Academies Trust).”

Mr Walsh last week wrote a letter to parents criticising Leeds City Council plans to demolish Boston Spa High School, sell off the land for development and merge it with nearby Wetherby High School, despite it being in the process of applying to join TGAT to help it achieve an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.

In a statement last Thursday, Mr Shelbrooke said he had been approached by Boston Spa regarding its plan to convert to an academy, take over Wetherby High School, relocate all children to Boston Spa and move the sixth-form provision out of the village.

But Mr Walsh sent out a second letter to parents on behalf of governors denying this. The following day, Mr Shelbrooke released a letter from Mr Walsh, dated November 2017, which appeared to support the MP’s statement.

In Mr Walsh’s letter to parents, he revealed the city council had objected to the academy application, instead putting forward the unexpected counter-proposal.

The news sent shockwaves through the community, and parents have launched a campaign, with a Save our School Facebook page already attracting almost 2,000 members.

Debbie Young, a parent and former pupil at the school, said the focus was now on encouraging objectors to write to Mr Shelbrooke by Friday ahead of a decision due next week by Lord Agnew, the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.

She said: “The community has come together in an absolute groundswell of support. We are now taking a two-pronged approach. The first is let’s get this school made into an academy and part of TGAT. The second is if Lord Agnew says no, then parents, the school and village will come together and form a different approach to keep our school.”

Parents set to fight merger

Parents at a primary school that could be merged with a neighbouring secondary in an effort to tackle a pupil places shortage in North Leeds have written to councillors to fight the plans ahead of an executive board meeting today.

The Save Moor Allerton Hall Primary School group is challenging Leeds City Council’s proposals to increase the size of the primary school from 60 intake to 90, and merge it with Allerton Grange High School to form a through school.

The council has redrawn the proposals addressing a number of issues, but there are still significant concerns including the merger affecting the school’s improvement.