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Victory over Tory school closure plan
Part of the Mirfield protest in Kirklees against a school closure forced a u-turn, photo J Grunsell
LAST WEEK, the Tory council cabinet in Kirklees was forced into a remarkable u-turn by announcing a reprieve for Castle Hall school from threatened closure. Around 30 students and parents were in London lobbying Downing Street when the announcement was made.
Mike Forster, Unison education chief steward, personal capacity
This is a stunning victory for the campaign which had only been up and running for six weeks. In that time, the council leader for education, Jim Dodds had been inundated with protest letters, emails and deputations. The previous week's demo through Mirfield had attracted a crowd of around 300.
It was clear that the movement was getting stronger and beginning to link up with other action groups opposed to the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
Neither had it escaped the Tories' notice that this movement was slap bang in the middle of a strong Conservative area. Political calculation is now driving this BSF proposal, rather than the education needs of young people in the area.
This volte face has thrown the whole programme into political disarray. The council will now have to spend even longer on the consultation programme.
There are a further ten schools threatened with closure and they still want to create an academy.
demonstration through Mirfield against school closure is successful, photo J Grunsell
However the decision to halt even one closure will give encouragement to those other campaigns which are now gaining momentum, especially the anti-academy group which has strong backing from parents, staff and education unions.
The Tory cabinet appealed to the three main political groups on the council to enter into all-party talks to try and resolve the impasse as their plans now require major revision.
It will not stop all the politicians from trying to score points off each other as the general election edges closer. The chances of securing all-party support for these huge cuts are waning as the anger of local people makes itself felt.
Socialist Party stalls on the subject are being swamped in the areas affected and new activists are stepping forward. Round one has gone to us, but this will be a long battle to secure and save public education in Kirklees.
In The Socialist 5 November 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news