For Salford and St George

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
Battling pupils have made the threatened closure of their school part of their citizenship GCSE course

SEVEN PUPILS at St George's Roman Catholic high school in Manchester will have to wait longer than most for their GCSE results.

The group from the Year 10 citizenship class chose a campaign to stave off their school's proposed closure for their coursework.

Salford city council plans to merge four Catholic schools and 2,700 pupils into three newly-built or refurbished schools.

In the past seven weeks, the 14 and 15-year-olds have designed strategies, prepared presentations, quizzed the mayor and councillors and collected more than 900 signatures for a petition.

This week they are due to present their display boards for assessment for a half GCSE - but their final reward will be determined next year by the council's decision on the school's future.

Paul Hanratty, head of citizenship at the school, said this was what teaching was all about: "It's about empowerment, letting youngsters know they can do anything they want if they set their minds to it."

The pupils have been on local TV to press their case, and handed out leaflets and collected signatures in their own time.

Once, a woman challenged them, saying she did not believe in faith schools.

In the background, a disillusioned former pupil heckled them, saying the school should be shut down. But they responded so calmly that they won over the woman, who reprimanded the heckler, then signed the petition.

Sam Ridings, 14, one of the pupils, said: "I'd like to get my GCSE, but this council decision means more to me now, by far."

He felt bolstered by a council assurance, given to The TES, that their submissions would be taken into account in the consultation process. He said: "That makes me feel confident to carry on - it gives us hope that we can do it."

Jill Baker, director of children's services for Salford City Council, said she looked forward to seeing the petition presented as part of the consultation process if the proposal proceeds next year.

"I think it's important that young people have an understanding of how the democratic process works and this is an opportunity for them to engage in something they feel strongly about. I admire their initiative," she added.

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