Council Scraps Troubled Almondbury Community School

It comes 9 months after a Syrian refugee was filmed being attacked there by a fellow pupil.

It’s the end of the line for troubled Almondbury Community School (ACS) after Kirklees Council opted to shut its secondary phase.

It came after a lengthy meeting in the council chamber at Huddersfield Town Hall that occasionally became tense, fractious and emotional.

And when the vote was passed Council Leader Clr Shabir Pandor said it was “with a heavy heart”.

It comes 9 months after a Syrian refugee was filmed being attacked there by a fellow pupil. The video was picked up by national press after it when viral on social media.

The decision was made following weeks of consultation with parents and children, some of whom were present to participate in the debate.

They fought to the end to save the school.

Speaking after the meeting campaign leader Trisha Jennings said: “I am gutted obviously but we walked out of there with our heads high.

“We have known since the start what they intended, but we’re not leaving it.

“My message to Kirklees Council is ‘Get ready for round two’. It’s not over.”

In outlining the council’s stance on the school education chief Clr Carole Pattison (Lab, Greenhead) said a rescue package designed to save the school five years ago by making it a through school had not worked.

She added that changing the upper age range of the school from 3-16 to 3-11 years, and distributing pupils among other neighbouring schools, provided a “secure and sustainable” future for them.

She was backed by Jo-Anne Sanders, the council’s Service Director – Learning and Early Support, who said falling pupil numbers at ACS had been a problem for 12-15 years and that the issue pre-dated the creation of ACS as a through school.

Campaigners including parents, ward councillors and children, who presented deputations, spoke passionately and fought doggedly to retain the school.

David Whittingham said ACS had been “hung out to dry” and openly suggested that the council might be eyeing the site for building.

“It’s a bit of a stitch-up,” he added.

Clr Pattison said the authority would not be selling the school land for building development.

Clr Rob Walker (Lab, Colne Valley) said he sympathised with parents but that the council’s hands were tied.

“The real victims are you. You are facing a really awful situation for your children’s future.”

Clr Viv Kendrick (Lab, Heckmondwike) said the council needed to make a decision to get out of “no man’s land”.

Reacting to the decision parent Paula Bairstow, whose daughter Amy was among those presenting impressive and mature deputations, said: “I am on a real downer.

“We have known all along what they wanted to do to ACS – since day one.

“They’ve stuck to saying the school isn’t viable. From the one-to-one meetings onward they have put on a charade.”

She added that education chiefs had promised to support pupils through the transition to other schools and that “nothing will happen for a year”.

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