Row over as hopes pinned on Leeds academy decision

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A leeds MP embroiled in a row with a headteacher over controversial plans to merge two schools has stressed their divisions have been resolved after discussions spilled over into a public spat.

Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke was caught up in a war of words with Boston Spa High School’s principal, Chris Walsh, after the plans emerged to move pupils to Wetherby.

However, Mr Shelbrooke has now spoken out in support of the academisation of Boston Spa, which would mean the school would remain open. He told the YEP that as an MP who voted for the Academies Act in 2010, he “fully supported” Boston Spa’s application.

He said: “I believe Boston Spa and Wetherby High Schools 
can have positive futures ahead of them and I will continue working closely with the headteachers and governing bodies.”

Mr Walsh said both himself and governors had conversed over email with Mr Shelbrooke since the argument, and added: “I am very pleased to read Alec Shelbrooke’s public statement.”

Last week Mr Walsh wrote a frank letter to parents, criticising Leeds City Council plans to demolish Boston Spa High School, sell off the land for development and merge it with nearby Wetherby High, despite it being in the process of applying to join The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT) to help it achieve an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.

In a statement last Thursday, Mr 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. But Mr Walsh sent out a second letter denying this. The following day, Mr Shelbrooke released a letter from Mr Walsh, dated November 2017, which appeared to support the MP’s statement.

In Mr Walsh’s letter to parents, he revealed the council had objected to the academy application.

Villagers have launched a campaign and Debbie Young, a parent and former pupil at the school, said the focus was now on encouraging objectors to write to Mr Shelbrooke ahead of a decision on the application due next week by Lord Agnew.

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