Watchdog panel to review “risky” Leeds school expansion plan

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Controversial plans to expand a Leeds school - in an area of the city dubbed a “black hole” for provision - are set to face further scrutiny after opposition councillors demanded a review by an internal watchdog.

Last week, Leeds City Council’s decision-making Executive Board approved a proposal to permanently expand primary provision at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School from 420 pupils to 630, with an increase in the admission number from 60 to 90 from September 2019.

Approval came in spite of comments from the School Organisation Advisory Board, a body that advises on issues concerning Leeds schools, which were critical of the plans.

But now a group of opposition councillors, led by Dan Cohen (Conservative, Alwoodley ward) have decided to “call-in” the decision to face further scrutiny by the Scrutiny Board (Children and Families). The panel will decide whether to release the decision for implementation or ask the Executive Board to reconsider the plans.

Councillor Cohen said: “Clearly serious concerns have been raised about this planned school expansion, not least by the School Organisation Advisory Board, which recommended rejection of the proposals.

“No one doubts that North Leeds needs more good school places – local families have made this clear repeatedly.

“But they need to be planned for responsibly and provided in the right places. The fact that a key education advisory body has considered the matter in detail and expressed serious doubts about what is planned should give us all pause. This scheme will cost an estimated £4.2m. Is this money being spent on the right project?”

The YEP reported earlier that some parents had expressed concerns, with some suggesting the plans had been “foisted” on locals.

School places provision in the area has been a subject of length talks and consultation in recent years.

Steve Walker, the council’s Director of Children and Families, said: “Scrutiny boards are a part of the Leeds constitution and, along with executive board, are a core part of the democratic decision making process. The majority of decisions made by executive board can be called in for additional scrutiny, as has happened here. The board will meet and consider the issues further and then decide on a course of action.”