CAMPAIGNERS battling to save Radcliffe’s Riverside High School are to take their fight to the Government.

Bury South MP Ivan Lewis will lead a delegation of staff, parents and governors to London in a bid to persuade Schools Secretary Ed Balls to force Bury Council to overturn a decision which effectively sounds the death knell for Riverside.

Mr Lewis has blasted the plan as “a betrayal of existing staff and pupils at Riverside, and a betrayal of Radcliffe’s future as a vibrant community”.

Bury Council’s executive has approved plans to build a new £32 million high school on the site of the former East Lancs Paper Mill in Radcliffe.

Derby High School will leave its present base in Radcliffe Road, Bury, and relocate to the new site — as will pupils of Riverside, which will ultimately close after the transfer.

The council’s decision to cease to admit new pupils to Riverside from August, 2010, has come in for widespread condemnation.

Derby’s capacity will be increased from 188 to 240 pupils as a result. A federation will temporarily co-ordinate education at both schools during the building work.

The plan is the flagship project for Bury Council’s initial £80 million bid under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme. A total of £180 million will be used to rebuild or modernise all high schools.

At last week’s executive meeting, many residents criticised the Riverside proposals, However, executive Cllr Diana Ashworth said: “This will provide Radcliffe with an extremely good school.”

Council Leader Cllr Bob Bibby said: “I feel this is the most legitimate way of dealing with the problem. The most important thing is to ensure there is a school in Radcliffe.”

An earlier consultation document warning that Riverside’s total roll could be less than 350 by 2010 if action was not taken generated hundreds of responses.

The merger decision will be subject to a six week consultation period but has infuriated campaigners. It has been referred to the council’s scrutiny commission.

Bury’s Labour group leader, Cllr Wayne Campbell, said: “This is the wrong decision. With growth in Radcliffe over coming years, there is potentially a 10 per cent increase in the number of children.

“We believe it would be better to build a new, smaller Derby High School on its current site and a new, smaller Riverside High School in Radcliffe.”

Ivan Lewis, who is awaiting a date for his Westminster meeting, wants the new Radcliffe school to be built sooner than the projected three to five years. He also wants it to be based on an “equal partnership”.

“Closing Riverside is unnecessary and vindictive. We are going to keep fighting for Radcliffe. This school was going to be at the heart of a regenerated Radcliffe and would have given people a sense of optimism.”

But Derby High School headteacher Alyson Byrne welcomed what she saw as an opportunity to create “a school for the future” to serve Redvales, Radcliffe and Bury East.

“We have the chance to build on the strengths of both schools. This can only be good news.”

At Radcliffe Local Area Partnership on Tuesday, Riverside headteacher Diana Morton thanked everyone who had supported the school. She said: “We have always said we would work with Derby to create a new school, but it is the interim period, when our school closes and the new one is being built, that worries us.

“Radcliffe Riverside is more than a building. A number of facilities used by the community could be lost through closure.”