Standing firm on the drive for two schools

Wet  Wetherby High School.(09040315f)
Wet Wetherby High School.(09040315f)

Campaigners are standing firm in the drive to keep secondary schools in Boston Spa and Wetherby.

The comments were made by the renamed Our School in Boston Spa Independent Parent and Community Action Group following two public consultations on the future provision of secondary education in the area last week.

Chairman Debbie Young told the Wetherby News: “The more our group are working together, the more information we’re finding out and we firmly stand by the desire and the viability of keeping two schools.”

She thanked the large numbers who turned out to the drop-in sessions in Boston Spa and Wetherby last Friday and Saturday.

“It was brilliant to see debate and conversation as it’s been the one thing we’ve felt has been lacking since the start of this,” she said.

“A huge thank you has to go to our ward councillors and the Leeds City Council representative.

“Having had a frustrating few weeks where we didn’t, and haven’t, felt listened to, I think they did an incredible job of addressing and taking the time to listen to our concerns and hear how passionate we are about Boston Spa gaining official academy status.”

Boston Spa School is seeking to join with the Gorse Academy Trust but Leeds City Council is proposing to create one school at Wetherby as it
 states there are not enough pupils to sustain two secondary schools.

“The community, once again, came out in large numbers and to see parents, villagers and pupils talk with such passion was great to see,” Debbie said.

She said the action group had changed its name to ensure that people realised it was an independent parent and community group and not posting on behalf of the school.

The campaign group’s sentiments were mirrored by MP Alec Shelbrooke, who said he would keep pushing for two schools.

“I will be publishing my official submission to the city council’s consultation later this week and will continue to lobby for a two-school solution, delivering two outstanding schools and parental choice,” he said.

“If this consultation has proved anything it is that parents in our area are deeply passionate about their children’s education and I sincerely hope Leeds City Council recognises this fact.”

He went on to thank councillors Alan Lamb, Gerald Wilkinson and Town Mayor Norma Harrington for putting so much effort into organising the public drop-in sessions last week.

“The feedback I have received from my constituents is that they really appreciated the fact that councillors were on hand to listen to their concerns,” said Mr Shelbrooke.

“We will continue to work together as a strong local team in order to best represent residents in all our communities.”

Ward councillors Lamb, Wilkinson and John Procter urged people that there was still time to fill in the Community Engagement Survey, which will close on March 25.

“It is very clear that the whole process has caused a great deal of uncertainty for parents and young people and we were able to address some of these issues at the drop ins,” the councillors stated to the News.

“For example, parents and young people who are beginning their GCSEs this September can be reassured that they will complete their courses without any interruption to their schooling.

“It is also now really important that the council and the Government provide reassurance to parents that are planning to send their children to one of the schools this September. Those parents quite rightly want to know what is going to happen with their local schools.

“We recognise that this is an emotive subject and residents have different views on what the best way forward should be.

“We hope that the survey and our drop-in sessions have enabled views to be shared and more information to be provided.

“Ultimately the feedback from the survey will go before Lord Agnew, the minister who will make the decision about whether Boston Spa School should become an academy.

“We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who came along and shared their views.”

Wetherby High School stated that it was grateful for the Community Engagement Survey allowing for “a better understanding of the complexities”.

“As a school, it has been gratifying to hear the MP Alec Shelbrooke, other local politicians and community leaders acknowledge and comment on the strong progress and improvement in recent years at Wetherby High School,” said a spokesman.

“We have also been overwhelmed and appreciative of the comments from parents and the local community as to why the school would be the perfect location for a new building so that our rapid progress may continue and the school community continue to thrive for many years to come.

“We are pleased that the debate has been brought into the public domain and that communities are being given the opportunity to make a decision as to which tough choices will best serve the needs of future generations.”

A statement has been released by Boston Spa School and Gorse Academies. In it Sir John Townsley, chief executive officer of The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT), said it was working towards joining with Boston Spa School.

“Boston Spa and its community are excited about their future within The Gorse Academies Trust and that should be respected,” he said.

“The same respect should also be shown to Wetherby High School as it decides the direction of its own exciting future.

“That future should not, however, be funded by the closure of a good, popular and improving school, particularly when the whole of the Leeds city region faces an emerging crisis around secondary school places in the next two years.”

For the statement in full, turn to letters on page 32.