Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Sunday, 25 April 2010 17:58 UK

Cameron backs Birkenshaw plan for parent-led school

David Cameron with campaign organisers
Mr Cameron joined campaign organisers at a rally in Gomersal

David Cameron has pledged his support to a group of parents in West Yorkshire whose plan to open their own secondary school was blocked by the government.

The Conservative leader attended a rally at Birkenshaw Middle School, which is due to close in 2013.

Mr Cameron told the rally that, if elected, he would help to make their "dreams come true".

Schools Secretary Ed Balls labelled the speech "dishonest". The Lib Dems said the Tory plans were a "gimmick".

The Birkenshaw, Birstall and Gomersal Parents' Alliance (BBGPA) was set up amid fears that the closure would leave families without a school in the area, forcing pupils to travel 45 minutes to the nearest one.

'An inspiration'

Mr Cameron said they were an example of his flagship policy of allowing parents, charities, churches and social entrepreneurs to set up independent schools within the state system.

At Sunday's BBGPA rally in Gomersal, he said: "You have got the belief, I have got the faith in you and together we can make this happen.

"You are an inspiration in terms of an active community that is not going to put up with the bureaucrats saying 'no' and want it to be the case that it is the parents that say 'yes'.

When he promises a new school to a local parents' group and the money to set it up, he's not telling people that the local community has already rejected this proposal
Ed Balls
Schools Secretary

"The whole aim of my government, if we win this election, will be to help people like you to realise your dream - a great school at the heart of your community with great standards, great discipline and great aspiration for all the children who want to go there."

Mr Balls said: "David Cameron is telling some parents around the country they can have a new school - but he is hiding the truth from the majority of other parents that this means cutting the budgets of their children's schools, laying off teachers and cancelling new buildings.

"And even worse, today in Kirklees when he promises a new school to a local parents' group and the money to set it up, he's not telling people that the local community has already rejected this proposal in favour of different plans including a new academy.

"And he is concealing from local parents that the expert adviser Professor David Woods looked at these proposals and found that this new extra school could only be paid for by cutting the budgets of all the other schools in the area and undermining their education."

'Less bureaucracy'

Denis Healy, from the Liberal Democrats, said of the Tory plans for parent-led schools: "It sounds like another Tory gimmick to me.

"People on the doorstep are not talking about running their own schools.

"What they are saying about education is that they want smaller class sizes. They want more one-to-one tuition, they want to see less bureaucracy.

"They really want to hear about investment in education which is why we are putting £2bn into reducing class sizes."

The school lies in the Batley and Spen constituency whose candidates are: Liberal Democrat: Neil Bentley; Green Party: Matt Blakeley; British National Party: David Exley; Conservative: Janice Small; Labour: Mike Wood.



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