SCHOOLS considering turning into academies in York are to be urged to ballot parents and neighbours over their plans.

School governors in York who decide to consider moving their schools out of local authority control will be "encouraged as strongly as the law allows" to hold a community ballot before going ahead.

The proposal was voted through by city representatives at a full meeting of City of York Council, after it emerged that the third school governing body involved in a multi academy trust (MAT) proposal in South Bank had agreed to pursue the academies plan.

Knavesmire Primary School governors have followed the example of Millthorpe and Scarcroft schools in deciding to proceed with the MAT proposal, with a final decision to be made towards the end of this year.

Proposed by Labour councillor for the South Bank area Julie Gunnell, the ballot motion got the support of the Green party and the Liberal Democrats, after a bitter exchange that saw accusations of "bullying" around the plans for schools in South Bank.

Cllr Gunnell called for ballots, saying that consultations with current parents were not enough, and did not take into account the wider community, or parents of children likely to start school in coming years.

Conservative councillor Jenny Brooks said councils had "no role to play" in the decisions over academisation, which lay entirely with school governors, and said that letting governors be "bullied" into holding a ballot would land the school in a "political fire storm" where pressure groups and campaigners could lobby households while the school would be unable to respond.

But Cllr Stuart Barnes who is also a governor at Scarcroft Primary said the bullying allegations were "regrettable" when talking about a committed but "sometimes excessively passionate" parent group.

The Liberal Democrats, in joint control at the council, also supported the proposal with Lib Dem member Cllr Carol Runciman saying a ballot was only one of a number of consultation options the council should encourage.

She said proper consultation was vital for proposals like a MAT plan.

"Ballots can be a blunt instrument and there are many other ways of consulting which give people a voice and not just a vote.

"If the authority were to advise schools considering academy status I would hope that advice might include suggestions such as stakeholder meetings, community meetings, briefing papers sent to local organisations.

"It is very important to give everyone a voice, and not just a vocal minority."