THE battle to save Kingsway High School is expected to take a fresh turn this morning when members of Cheshire County Council's school planning select panel meet to consider its future.
The panel - made up seven councillors - will be asked to consider the result of a unanimous vote by governors who this week made a dramatic U-turn and backed a motion to keep the Newton school open.
At their vote on Tuesday, governors backed a plan aimed at giving Kingsway High School a crucial lifeline - just a month after a majority of governors backed plans to start closure consultation.
At this week's vote, governors voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for:
A city-wide review of secondary school places across Chester.
The appointment of a headteacher.
Kingsway to continue as an inclusive secondary school, with the site also possibly being used for other facilities such as childcare and post-16 education and sport facilities.
Although their motion will be put to today's school planning select panel for consideration, the panel will also be presented with hard facts detailing Kingsway's financial state.
Behind closed doors, panel members will discuss whether they can continue to support a financially failing school which saw its headteacher Dr David Gower resign in February.
Kingsway, which is about £300,000 in the red, is said to be one of the most expensive high schools in Cheshire to run - based on money per pupil.
Panel members will be told the cost of educating a pupil in 2003/04 at Kingsway is £3,596 compared with the Cheshire average of £2,850 and the Chester high school average of £3,043.
Falling pupil numbers are to blame for Kingsway's problems which is expected to operate as a 760-place school despite only having 525 pupils on roll. Heating and maintenance costs also add to King-sway's per pupil head education costs.
More details of Kingsway's deepening financial state emerged yesterday after The Chronicle put questions to education chiefs at County Hall.
The panel meeting, which will be followed by a press conference, is expected to be chaired by county Cllr Paul Findlow (Con) - leader of the authority's ruling Tory group.
He will take over the position of chair from county Cllr David Rowlands - education executive member for Cheshire - who is stepping aside due to his role as chairman of governors at neighbouring Upton High School.
As well as being presented with details of the current pupil/parent campaigns to save Kingsway, panel members will also be told of King-sway's falling pupil numbers.
The number of pupils seeking admission has almost halved in just one year from 79 to 44.
Education chiefs can't understand why many parents in Cheshire are deciding not to send their children to Kingsway, in favour of Upton High and other neighbouring city schools.
They also can't figure out why Kingsway is operating with a huge deficit when it has benefited from added small school support money since 1995.
Between April 2001 and March 2004, Kingsway received £421,256 worth of small school support cash - for schools with falling numbers - and will receive £250,000 for 2004/05.
However, insiders say Kingsway was hit in the pocket to the tune of £100,000 last year following a funding error made by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.
They say school governors had come up with a plan to repay King-sway's £200,000 deficit over three years, but were hit by a £100,000 education budget shortfall - suddenly increasing their deficit to £300,000.
Mr Clarke will solve the situation this year by repaying the money back to schools.
Kath Lloyd, chairman of governors at Kingsway High, is angry the school planning select panel will be presented with new financial data behind closed doors.
'Because the meeting of the school planning select panel is private, the members will not be able to hear any opinion from the people who want see Kingsway given a chance.
'Panel members will have all these financial figures which will be from the local education authority's (LEA) point of view. This discussion should be about more than just pure figures.
'We, the governors, have presented the LEA with a realistic budget plan and all we need is a chance to run with it.
'Others schools have deficits such as Frodsham High and Sutton High in Ellesmere Port. The LEA is making an example of us.'
The number of special needs pupils at Kingsway could also account for the school's high costs per pupil as special needs pupils cost more to educate.
If the school planning select panel recommends closure consultation, the matter will then be put to Cheshire County Council's full executive on April 8.
If the executive agrees with the recommendation a full public consultation exercise will be launched.
Governors were forced to take part in a second vote this week after their first one - in favour of closure consultation - was declared void.
The procedure, which happened in the absence of three governors, rendered the entire governing body's vote void. A parents meeting will be held at Kingsway High next Monday, at 7pm.