Education chiefs on Kirklees Council have been accused of “manipulating” parents whose children are set to leave Almondbury Community School (ACS) next year.
When the council took the controversial decision in July to close the secondary phase at ACS, leaders said pupils would be accommodated in neighbouring schools including King James’s, Netherhall Learning Campus in Rawthorpe, Newsome High School and Shelley College.
But parents have discovered that their options are becoming increasingly limited as the majority of school rolls are full.
That means most pupils are being directed towards Newsome High School, which, as of June this year, had 530 pupils on roll. It has capacity for many more.
A small group of parents is set to meet Jo-Anne Sanders, the council’s Service Director – Learning and Early Support, who is driving the closure plan, on September 24.
One parent said she had been advised by the council’s admissions office to fill in an application form before October 31 listing three preferences but to be prepared to appeal as King James’s, Netherhall and Shelley College are all full.
She was informed that winning an appeal was “not certain” but that places were available at Newsome and Huddersfield North Trust at Fartown.
She said neither school was a realistic option as they were too far away and involved two separate bus journeys lasting almost an hour.
“This is the same outcome for many parents. It’s not our choice to move from ACS and we have to put our kids through more disappointment and hassle of filling in forms.
“There has been a lack of support for our children who still don’t know where they’re going to be this time next year.”
Clr Bernard McGuin (Con, Almondbury) said the council had misled parents by taking them down “the wrong path” to make a decision.
He added: “Now they are being directed in this one direction, and it’s the direction that they didn’t want to go in!
“I don’t think they have been at all clear about what their intention was. They have manipulated the situation and taken advantage of it to get rid of a school.”
His ward colleague Clr Alison Munro (Lib Dem, Almondbury) urged the council to offer all displaced pupils free bus passes “in perpetuity”.
“Newsome is the school that has been promoted by the council throughout the consultations, is closer to Almondbury and parents have felt all along
that their children were being channelled in one direction only: Newsome.
“It is fair then to assume that most of these children will now be going to Newsome High School post-2020. This is an issue as these children will no longer be walking to their local school in Almondbury.
“There is therefore a pressing need to get transport arrangements in place. It is important therefore that all displaced pupils of ACS (secondary
provision) are granted free school bus passes and this must be in perpetuity.
“They have not opted to move schools. It is the council who have forced this upon them.”
Kirklees Council was asked to respond to parents’ fears over a lack of choice. A spokesman commented: “We are working closely with local schools to ensure all affected pupils at ACS are able to access a suitable place nearby.
“We will be contacting families as soon as possible with the options available for them to preference.
“There will be enough places for every pupil and our priority will be to support families in making a smooth transition, helping young people to fulfil their potential.”