Governors in disarray after row over school opt-out

Parent governors are protesting to the Secretary of State for Education following the re-run of an opting-out ballot at a grammar school in the Wirral which has left the governing body divided over the school's future.

A ballot held early this year among parents of pupils at Calday Grange school resulted in a majority of just two votes in favour of opting out. Subsequent claims that the electoral roll was invalid led John Patten, Secretary of State, to order a re-run.

He also decided that the fresh ballot should use the same register as the first ballot: parents of the 253 pupils who started this September were unable to vote, but parents of the 168 pupils who left last summer remained eligible.

The result of that ballot was announced yesterday, with parents voting 804 to 685 in favour.

However, a group of four parent governors had already protested to Mr Patten that the dominant group of governors had frustrated their attempts to fill three places for co-opted governors which are vacant. They say the issue is crucial, because the existing governors will decide who to appoint as first governors when the school becomes grant-maintained.

A meeting of governors was already planned for tonight to reconsider co-options, but David Sherlock, chairman of governors, has called a meeting at short notice for this morning to approve the school's opting out plans.

Ann Wells, one of the protesting parent governors, said yesterday that the co-options might have led to a delay in the school's opting out plans, because the group who favour pressing ahead with an immediate opt-out have a majority of only one on the governing body. She added that the objecting governors were not all opposed to opting out: some of them simply believed that the issue should have been set aside until the ballot could be run among the school's present body of parents.

Mr Sherlock, however, denied that the co-option argument was in any way linked to the school's plan to opt out. He said he had called the meeting to approve opting out plans because he believed the school had made its decision and should press ahead. 'We need to get back to the three main matters: the school, its staff and the pupils.'