War of words breaks out between MP and Boston Spa headteacher

Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke.
Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke.
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A row has broken out between an MP and a headteacher who have both accused each other of lying over plans to merge two Leeds schools.

Yesterday the YEP revealed that Chris Walsh, principal of Boston Spa Academy, had written a frank letter to parents, criticising city council plans to demolish the school and merge it with nearby Wetherby High School despite it being in the process of applying to join The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT) to help it achieve an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

Boston Spa Academy headteacher Chris Walsh, second left.

Boston Spa Academy headteacher Chris Walsh, second left.

In a statement on Thursday Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke said he had been approached by Boston Spa regarding its plan to convert to an academy, take over Wetherby High School, relocate all children to Boston Spa, and move the sixth form provision out of the village.

However, in response Mr Walsh sent out a second letter to parents on behalf of governors denying this.

He wrote: “To suggest otherwise is disingenuous. Alec Shelbrooke should know that any such embryonic suggestion was prompted only at the request of the Regional Schools Commissioner and was not the position of governors of Boston Spa Academy.”

But today, in a further twist, Mr Shelbrooke released a letter from Mr Walsh, dated November 2017, which appears to support his statement.

Labelling the school’s claims as a “bizarre intervention”, he said: “I am baffled to understand why statements made by Boston Spa seem to attempt to turn a friend into a foe.

"I simply do not understand why anyone would suggest that I am anything other than supportive of plans to academise schools in my constituency when I have consistently supported such plans."

He added: “I can only work on the information provided to me and my constituents can judge for themselves whether my comments were factual or whether Boston Spa’s actions since have been disingenuous.”

Ward councillors hit back

Wetherby ward councillors say they were “disappointed” to read Boston Spa headteacher Chris Walsh’s letter to parents on Wednesday, labelling it “inaccurate, misleading, alarmist and irresponsible”.

In a joint statement to residents yesterday, councillors Gerald Wilkinson, John Procter and Alan Lamb wrote: “The letter has caused unnecessary concern and distress, amongst pupils who attend Boston Spa and Wetherby secondary schools and their families.”

They said there would be no snap closure of Boston Spa or Wetherby High schools and there would be a public meeting on the issue.