Government sets out Tynemouth academy go-ahead

The Kings Priory School, in Tynemouth, is to open in September after the Department for Education gave the scheme the go-ahead

Aaron Harvey and Vjolica Dobson with their new school uniform
Aaron Harvey and Vjolica Dobson with their new school uniform

The Government has set out its reasons for granting approval for a controversial new academy.

The Kings Priory School, in Tynemouth, is to open in September after the Department for Education gave the scheme the go-ahead.

The academy will be formed by the merger of the privately-run Kings School and state-run Priory Primary.

North Tyneside Council had objected to the proposals and asked Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to re-consider the scheme.

On Friday, the authority was informed the plan had been looked at afresh and a decision was made to allow the academy to open.

Now, in a five-page letter, Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, has explained the reasons behind the decision.

He acknowledged there were objections on a number of grounds, including the adverse impact on other schools such as Marden and Monkseaton High, and the increase in surplus places. But he said parents and staff of both Kings and Priory Primary were overwhelmingly in favour of the merger.

He added that he took careful note of the opposition to the proposal but also of support for it, and took into account the demand for the new academy.

He noted there were 109 first preference applications for 75 places in reception and 78 applications for 35 places in year seven.

He said: “I consider that there is a strong argument for increasing parental choice through the provision of high-quality places in the area and I believe that the new academy is likely to provide high-quality education.”

In addition, he felt Kings Priory would help to drive up standards in other schools in the area.

He added: “I note the local authority’s view that a decline in pupil numbers and the associated financial impact is likely to result in reduced levels of staffing in neighbouring schools.

“This may restrict the ability of those schools to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and thus have a destabilising impact.

“However, I believe that the provision of what I expect to be high-quality education at Kings Priory is likely to promote the increase of standards in the area which should stimulate improvements in standards at Marden High School.”

Earlier this month, the council agreed to challenge the Government’s decision to allow the Kings Priory Academy to go ahead. Lawyers were instructed to send a formal legal letter, known as a pre-action protocol letter, to the Secretary of State urging him to reconsider his decision.

Now a cabinet meeting is due to be held this week to consider whether any further action is appropriate.

Coun Jim Allan, leader of the Labour group in North Tyneside, said: “From our perspective, there is going to be a major impact on education in North Tyneside.

“This puts Marden High, which gets a significant number of pupils from Priory Primary, at risk. And there will be knock-on effects for Monkseaton High and nurseries in the area.

“It’s disappointing that they have reconsidered the plan and made this decision with such haste.”

David Bilton, CEO of the Woodard Academies Trust, sponsor of Kings Priory School, said: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State has quickly and thoroughly re-examined all information submitted and has yet again approved the funding agreement.

“With just 34 days to go until the new academy opens, we hope this draws a line under any uncertainty for parents and students.”

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