THE FATE of both Verdin and Woodford Lodge High Schools will be decided tonight, Wednesday, in a meeting open to parents and the public.

The proposed plans to close both high schools and reopen them as an academy , before moving to a a new building based on a site behind Verdin Exchange, has come to the end of a controversial six-week consultation period - extended by five days after last week’s report in the Guardian.

And tonight, in a meeting of the Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) Executive Committee in Ellesmere Port, a vote will take place on the decision.

In a report issued by CWAC yesterday, it was revealed that there are 625 empty desks at Winsford’s two high schools and in a report brought before tonight’s meeting the council outline the ‘alarming drop’ in applications for the town’s Federated Woodford Lodge and Verdin High Schools.

The schools are among ther lowest GCSE performers in the borough with the town losing roughly a third of its secondary schools pupils to Northwich and Middlewich.

Sixth form numbers have dropped in the town and as a result the schools have decided there will be no year twelve intake this year - irrespective of wether the schools reopen as an academy or not.

And while the local authority insist it has considered a variety of options they maintain the proposed ten-form entry academy is the only solution that attract’s external funding and expertise to support the vital improvement of the standards.

Director of Children’s Services John Stephens said: “Both schools have been working hard to improve standards but given the very serious challenges they both face, we do not believe that maintaining the status quo is an option.

“This authority is committed to providing every child in the borough with an excellent education and has considered a number of options to achieve that aim in Winsford.

“However, the academy proposal is the only on which potentially provides external funding and expertise to raise standards to tthe level we want, in the shortest time possible.”

But Winsford town councillors are still outraged by the speed at which the plans are pushing through, with their request for a December extension on the consultation dismissed by CWAC.

Cllr Charlie Parkinson said: “What is the rush? I think a lot more discussion is needed - there is some very grave concerns regarding the sponsorship of this academy and it seems unreasonable that we are not getting answers.”

He also slammed the decision to hold tonight’s meeting outside of the town, calling for it to be moved to Wyvern House. He added: “It is a disgrace that they are holding such an important meetring 26 miles away in Ellesmere Port, it is a poor decision from a council whose policy it is to engage local people with local issues.”

If the Executives go ahead with notices for closure of the two schools a six week period to allow further representations from parents and other stakeholders will follow before a final decision is made.

Tonight’s meeting will start at 6.30pm in the Civic Hall, 2 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port To report to Executive on the porposed closure, including a 33-page “Expression of Interest” document outlining the case for the academy visit the link below.