‘Why weren’t we asked about new academy?’

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THE lightning speed at which councillors decided to enlarge a Calderdale secondary school by a quarter without consulting parents “beggars belief,” according to one school governor.

It has caused anxiety among parents about management issues, the effectiveness and performance of the super-sized school and fears that it will become an education factory, said Joe Collins.

Calderdale Council last week caved in to pressure to consult users over plans for a new library in Halifax but it seems to be too late for the school scheme.

“It is astounding that they appear to think that enlarging Trinity Academy is the most sensible decision yet they do not appear to have any alternatives – planning has started without any consultation on such a vital educational issue,” said Mr Collins.

The chairman of the governors at Lee Mount Primary, in Halifax, said people had considerable concerns about the proposed 400-place extension which will be added to the academy, at Holmfield, Halifax, when neighbouring St Catherine’s closes in 2013.

It will make the school one of the biggest in Yorkshire, with 1,900 students.

“Parents and young people are once again victims of circumstance. Surely they deserve better and this merits further debate,” he said.

The Leeds Diocese announced two years ago that it intended to concentrate Roman Catholic secondary schooling at All Saints, Bradley, Huddersfield.

But the closure of St Catherine’s would create shortage of school places in North Halifax prompting the council to consider taking over the land and buildings.

Church demands for as much as £4 million compensation prompted the council to pull out and decide to extend Trinity Academy instead.

Mr Collins said there should have been consultation with “stakeholders” such as parents, staff, governors of other schools, ward councillors, the area forum, young people, North Halifax Federation of Schools, North Halifax Partnership, Ovenden and Mixenden Initiative and the wider community.

Academy principal Michael Gosling said last week: “People may feel anxious about what this might mean for them but we are hoping to have firm plans in place that we can share as quickly as possible with parents, students, staff and the wider community.”

The council’s head of learning, David Whalley, said no formal consultation was required to close St Catherine’s as it was outside the council’s control.

In May 2010, the council’s Lib-Lab coalition promised to make effective consultation one of its top 10 priorities.