North Tyneside Council holds line on Academy objection

North Tyneside Council last night discussed the decision made by the Education Secretary to approve proposals for two Tynemouth schools to merge

The King's School in Tynemouth
The King's School in Tynemouth

North Tyneside Council has agreed for its cabinet to take all necessary steps to persuade the Government to reconsider its decision on King’s Priory Academy.

The news comes after it called an Extraordinary Council Meeting to discuss the decision of the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to approve all the proposals for the academy.

Following the vote last night, which was won in favour of the reconsideration 37-7, North Tyneside Council met to take forward its objection and will ask for the Government to justify its decision on King’s Priory Academy.

One option available, should the council still not be satisfied by the Government’s decision, is to call for a Judicial review, but this is still some steps away in terms of legal procedures.

In an amended statement laid out at the meeting, it was asked that the council noted that: “Council is opposed to the King’s Priory Academy proposals because of the impact on education across the whole of the borough and agrees to support cabinet in taking all appropriate steps to secure that the Department for Education reconsiders the decision to enter in to the funding agreement to create the King’s Priory Academy to ensure that errors are rectified and the impact upon other schools is properly considered.”

Supporting this statement, Councillor Nigel Huscroft said: “We are corporate parents and it is our duty to ensure that schoolchildren across our area receive the best education they can.”

The meeting discussed at length the implications of the potential merger of the schools for North Tyneside’s 30,000 pupils.

Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
 

Councillor Ian Grayson, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, said: “We cannot sit here and do nothing.

“There are errors in the Government’s decision to approve the academy and they need to be both rectified as well as justified.”

Listed in the report laid out at the meeting, four areas were of key concern. The first was there was “procedural impropriety” in relation to King’s School’s £5m debt.

Secondly, that the “Secretary of State made a material error of fact, in that he based his decision on his misunderstanding that Marden High School was ‘clearly oversubscribed’.”

The third was that the Secretary of State failed to comply with his obligation to section 9(2) of the Academies Act 2010 in that “he failed to take in to account the realistic impact on Marden High School and other secondary schools” in the council’s area.

The fourth was that the Secretary of State “failed to comply with his public sector equality duty” according to section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

Coun Grayson added that the Government was wrong to say Marden High School is oversubscribed, and the school would actually see a drop of 300 pupils across five years, costing £1.3m.

One of the key issues surrounding the whole merger debate - which still has people divided - is the impact on other schools in the area and what that might do to numbers and costings across the next five to 10 years.

In opposition to the proposed motion, Conservative group leader Councillor Judith Wallace welcomed the proposed King’s Priory Academy and said “It is what parents at both schools want.”

Last night, Labour councillors were hopeful that any review and court hearing could be heard before the academy opens in September.

Until that time, the debate over Kings Priory Academy will continue.

 

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