At last week’s full council meeting a vote was taken whether council would give its support to a bid for government funding to bring a new sixth form facility to Calderdale. Without the support of the local authority, such a bid is seriously weakened.
Calderdale sixth would be a purpose built free school situated centrally for the borough, in Halifax town centre.
The need for improvement to our offer to Calderdale’s students at post 16 is not in doubt.
Our children and young people perform poorly year on year at post-16, compared to at GCSE level. Many of our students cannot access the combination of academic courses they want and need, unless they travel out of the borough.
Trinity Academy – the former Ridings School - who are heading up the bid, have proved their ability to handle huge projects and challenges. They have achieved stunning improvements in results for their students.
Initial consultation has shown that more than 2,000 students across Calderdale would make such a facility their first choice.
It was devastating to see Labour colleagues choose to outvote the Conservative, Liberal and Independent votes and prevent the bid progressing with full council’s initial support. Yes, the working up of the bid has needed to be somewhat rushed in order to meet funding deadlines – but that did not stop the Labour group largely supporting it right up until a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, some heads in our borough have real concerns about the project – but these could have been considered alongside the bid going forward through this initial stage.
Yes, the Halifax Parliamentary candidate voiced support for the project in his leaflet without seeking appropriate permissions, for which he has rightly apologised.
The fact is that lack of support at this early stage could lose opportunity for funding for good. And it could be many, many years before a way forward, a will, an ability and Government funding coincide again. Some of the justification appeared to be that the bid may succeed without council’s support. I sincerely hope that proves true.
Whatever the issue, politics has a lot to answer for when political agendas and points scoring appear to come above what will bring the best outcomes for the people of Calderdale.
And I don’t just mean party politics between councillors, but would also between schools, and within our education system.
Of course the very nature of politics is that people have varying views on what’s best, and how to achieve it. Sadly, on this occasion, I fear the losers won’t be those who lost the vote at last week’s council meeting, but our young people of Calderdale.
By Councillor Christine Beal (Rastrick, Con)