ATHERTON’S Hesketh Fletcher High School will close in 2012 as the multi-million pound plan to transform education in Leigh and Wigan gets underway.

Despite protests from parents, governors and pupils the council’s ruling cabinet has agreed to first phase proposals of the £300m Wigan Schools for the Future project which affects Atherton, Leigh, Westleigh, Lowton and Golborne.

Plans to transform Hesketh Fletcher into one of two specialist 14 to 19 centres in the borough and a scheme to modernise and extend Westleigh High School to create a learning campus will now go-ahead.

The move means that Hesketh Fletcher will cease to be a traditional high school in August 2012. To coincide with this, Westleigh will increase in size from the current 775 pupils to 1,250 pupils from September 2012.

The proposals also mean that Hindley High School will be rebuilt and increase in size from 935 pupils to 1,125.

Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, said: “The Cabinet considered all the issues which were raised during the consultation process and felt that these had been satisfactorily answered. BSF offers a real opportunity to improve the quality of education for young people and we start building new schools as soon as possible.”

The first phase of Building Schools for the Future has been well publicised in the borough and has been subject to extensive consultation with parents, residents and other groups within communities set to benefit from the proposals.

During this time the council received 124 written representations for and against the proposals. The council also received two petitions objecting to the proposal to transform Hesketh Fletcher.

The cabinet considered and addressed all the comments in making its decision.

These included concerns about the effect the changes may have on current and future students; standards and quality of education and the perceived loss of a school and school facilities.

Cabinet Champion for Children and Young People, Cllr Susan Loudon, said: “This is a big step forward.

“We know people have strong feelings about their local school and it is only right that they are concerned about what will happen in the future. It is good to know that people feel so passionately about their local school.

“However in terms of Hesketh Fletcher this passion isn’t reflected in the number of parents who choose the send their children to the school.

“By transforming Hesketh Fletcher into a 14 to 19 centre the council is actually acting to preserve a world-class educational presence in the town for generations to come.

“The expansion plans for Westleigh and Hindley are also good news because they will also bring with them new resources and facilities to create fantastic learning campuses for the whole community.”

Disappointed Atherton Demands Its Own High School (ADIOHS) Campaign Group spokesman Stephen Hall said: "The Council's decision is unfortunately very much what most of us were expecting.

"It further demonstrates that the Council has no intention of listening to the people of Atherton whatever we say or do.

"Wigan’s formal public consultation over the issue has essentially been nothing more than a farcical exercise, since the conclusions were already decided before the process was even started.

"We would like to assure the people of Atherton that far from our fight being over, that it is really only just beginning.

"We have absolutely no intention of giving up and are as resolute as ever. The next stage of our fight is likely to be an appeal to the 'Schools' Adjudicator' nationally.

"Failing that, we intend to challenge the Council's decision to close our high school in the Courts, possibly with the assistance of the Human Rights organisation Liberty."