FOLLOWING a hard-fought battle by parents and pupils of Parr High, the school's future was hanging in the balance last night (Wednesday) when a decision was due to be made by councillors.

At the time of going to press, St. Helens Council's Executive Committee was considering a decision to close the high school after a lengthy and comprehensive consultation process involving staff, parents and governors.

If committee members approve the recommendation, the formal procedure will begin to close the school, with the publication of statutory notices in September. And a final decision will be made in December this year by the School Organisation Committee.

But pupils and parents at the school have already stressed that this does not signal the end of their battle and they are eager to show their determination by gathering outside the town hall on Wednesday to protest before the meeting.

Pupil James Slater, who has led the pupils' campaign to save the school, urged locals not to give up the fight, saying: "It's really important that people don't panic because we still have to do all we can to stop the school from closing. Even if a decision is made to close the school, we still have two months to object."

Parent, Kath Holland, said that the atmosphere at the school was subdued, but stressed that staff have promised to support pupils until the end.

Defending the council's decision, Andy Bowden, executive member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: "Local Education Authorities like St Helens Council must provide quality services. Continued falls in pupil numbers, coupled with the effect of parental choice, mean that we have to consider making changes to the provision of school places in some areas. This unfortunately means that we have to consider making some very difficult decisions, including the possible closure of Parr High School."

And Susan Richardson, the borough's director of Community Education and Leisure Services, added: "The recommendation to close Parr High is based on an exhaustive assessment of the issues and took into account the consultation findings. Decisions to reorganise school places are always difficult to make. If Parr High is to close it will be important that changes are effected smoothly and that pupils, parents and staff are properly advised and supported during the process."

Among issues raised as part of the public consultation were:

Parr is a good school which is valued by the community.

How would the pupils travel to their new schools at Haydock and Sutton?

How would parents afford to buy a new uniform?

What would happen over the transfer of pupils and their options... would their education suffer?

Will additional pastoral staff be made available at new schools to help cope with the emotional disruption? Would there be bullying and intimidation?