Row brewing over East Keswick secondary schools
4 Feb 2018
A row has broken out over the future of the two schools which are traditionally the designation of most of East Keswick's children. For years the majority of 11 year olds (especially those not going to church or private schools) have gone on to either Wetherby High or Boston Spa School.
Chris Walsh, head teacher of Boston Spa has accused Leeds City Council of having a plan to demolish his school, sell the land for housing, and merge it with Wetherby. Boston had applied to join The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT) which would take it outside local authority control and protect its future. The headteacher points out that Wetherby High has had 'requires improvement' designation in all three recent Ofsted inspections whereas Boston Spa was judged 'good' in its last two inspections. the governors are unanimous in their desire to join TGAT which has seen six out of seven inspections ranked 'outstanding'.
Meanwhile Wetherby ward councillors on Leeds City Council have accused the Head Teacher's letter of being 'inaccurate, misleading, alarmist and irresponsible' pledging a public meeting would be held before any changes happen. They say a government minister will now decide on whether Boston can become an academy. They say that decision is likely within one month and claim that apart from an option to close Boston and merge it into Wetherby that Boston has submitted a plan to close Wetherby and relocate pupils into Boston and then close Boston's sixth form, something Boston Spa emphatically deny.
Wetherby councillors say that two years ago Leeds decided that 'numbers at both schools had fallen to a level that meant that neither school would be financially viable going forward and that something needed to be done to address the issue before one or both schools reached a crisis point'.
In 2015/6 thirteen Bardsey pupils chose Boston and five chose Wetherby. Boston Spa was previously designated as being the closest secondary school to East Keswick (thereby entitling parents to free school travel) but Leeds introduced a new measurement system in 2017 using a Ducth mapping system that parents had no access to and this designated, for the first time, that Wetherby High and not Boston Spa was the nearer and the only choice which would give parents free travel. East Keswick Parish Council hosted public meetings of angry parents and led a delegation to a full meeting of Leeds City Council.
Wetherby Councillors say that a public meeting was held in Clifford in June 2016 and that 'every parish council in the area was invited' though East Keswick Parish Council have no record of being invited.
Alec Shelbrooke MP said he supports the academisation of Boston Spa "I have little faith in the ability of the Labour run Council to deal with school improvement or the consequences of the thousands of new homes it wants to build on Greenfield and greenbelt land around my constituency'.