Voters rally behind anti-academy councillors

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Anti-academy campaigners are hoping victories in last week's local elections will prevent plans for more of the state-funded independent schools from going ahead
Anti-academy campaigners are hoping victories in last week's local elections will prevent plans for more of the state-funded independent schools from going ahead.

In Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, nine councillors - eight independent and one Liberal Democrat - were elected on anti-academy tickets and now hold the balance of power on the 36-seat district council.

In Calderdale, West Yorkshire, a BNP councillor was elected after campaigning against plans to open a Church-sponsored academy in Halifax.

The Barrow councillors are opposed to plans to close three of the town's secondaries and open a new academy in September 2009, sponsored by BAE systems, two local businessmen, the local sixth form college, FE college and university.

Cumbria County Council said its plans would see the education institutions take the lead. Like the Government, it believes the injection of fresh ideas through academies will help to raise standards.

But Roger Titcombe, spokesman for the local Our Schools are Not for Sale campaign and agent for four of the Barrow independents, said: "This is a very clear democratic rejection of the academy by the voters in a British constitutional election.

"In its guiding principles for academies, the Government has always said it is important that academies are introduced with the agreement of the local community."

The district council has no formal powers over education. But the campaigners are hoping they can use their position of influence to persuade more councillors to reject the plan and convince Cumbria County Council that its scheme has no local support.

They are particularly pleased that anti-academy candidates had a strong showing in the wards to be directly affected by the proposed school closures.

Mr Titcombe, a former head of one of the threatened schools, said: "Replacing three schools with one huge school is an educationally bad idea and unpopular with parents."

In Halifax, Calderdale NUT secretary Sue McMahon, said: "If the main parties had done more to reflect local people's opinions in opposing this academy, then the BNP might not have got in."

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