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Let us decide fate of pupils; SCHOOLS: Councillors say borough should have final say.

Byline: By Mike Malyon

BOROUGH councillors are fighting controversial plans to close and merge two Nuneaton schools to form a new academy.

Warwickshire County Council has voted to close Manor Park and Alderman Smith schools and accept a pounds 30m government grant to build an academy, to be sited at Alderman Smith in Stockingford and be open in September 2010.

The move was debated at this week's Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council meeting, when it was decided "to call on the Secretary of State to alter the procedure for establishing academies so that parents and local people can have the final say in the decision."

This was an amendment put forward by the ruling Conservative group after an original motion by Labour was tabled "that this council will not accept the closure or amalgamation of any secondary school in the borough by the county council unless fully supported by the parents of the schools concerned."

Coun Bill Sheppard (Lab) said: "Children's education in this borough is in the spotlight and we are entering a phase of consultation which will take six to eight weeks, beginning in January.

"This will be a period of anguish for parents of children at the two schools affected. There are 1700 children across the two schools and the academy will take 1200, so what will happen to the other 500?

"We want to send out a message that children's education is the priority. This is one of the biggest decisions to affect this borough for a long time."

In proposing the amendment, Coun Marcus Jones (Con) said: "The county council have been left with Hobson's Choice. On one hand they are told they can have pounds 30m from the government to build an academy in Nuneaton and on the other they are told they must close and amalgamate Manor Park and Alderman Smith to do so.

"The government are being overbearing and over constrictive. They are loading the gun and letting the county council fire the bullets.

"We want the people of this borough to decide, not the politicians in Whitehall. We want this to go back to government for a re-think."

Coun Dennis Harvey (Lab) said: "It is unfortunate that this issue has become party political. We should all be representing all the children in all parts of the borough. Whatever happens to one school will have a knock-on effect. You cannot put a quart into a pint pot. If this plan goes through there has to be movement in other schools. We want fully comprehensive education in our borough without fear or favour."

Coun Bryan Grant (Con) said: "We have limited powers. We are not the education authority. Children's education must be first and foremost but we cannot afford to turn away the possibility of pounds 30m coming into this borough for education.

"We should work with the Secretary of State to alter the procedures so that parents have the final say.

This has to be taken to the people with the power and the money."

Coun Frank McGale (Lab) said: "We want people power. Think about what happened with the Judkins issue. We got a U-turn because of pressure. The key thing is to engage local people to oppose this move by the county council."

After a show of hands to pass the Tory amendment, a recorded vote was taken in which all the Labour councillors decided to abstain.

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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 5, 2008
Words:575
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