Opposition ends on Kings School merger

North Tyneside Council will not pursue a judicial review into the Government's decision to support a controversial school merger

privately-run King’s School
privately-run King’s School

A council will not pursue a judicial review into the Government’s decision to support a controversial school merger.

North Tyneside Council’s cabinet held a special meeting on the decision by the Department for Education (DfE) to enter into a funding agreement with Kings Priory Academy in Tynemouth.

The cabinet voted unanimously in favour of not commencing judicial review proceedings.

But numerous members criticised the process adopted by the governing bodies of Kings School and Priory Primary, and the DfE.

Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “This has been the most upsetting situation I have found myself in for years.

“I have been in education for years and I can’t believe how this process has taken place. I have never known two governing bodies get together and plan secretly.”

Coun Frank Lott added: “I think the decision by the Secretary of State is fundamentally flawed in both legal terms and in respect of education for children in the borough.

“I am accepting the recommendation that Coun Grayson has put to us. For many that might make the end of the road and be cause for celebration but that’s only for a few.

“It does mean the commencement of a journey of uncertainty for children in this borough. It’s inevitably going to be a journey that will end in redundancies for teachers and staff in other schools.”

Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
 

Last month, the council called on the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to re-consider Kings School and Priory Primary joining to become an academy in September.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, acknowledged there were objections on a number of grounds, including the adverse impact on other schools like 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 also said he felt Kings Priory would help to drive up standards in other schools in the area.

The council have been engaged in correspondence with the Secretary of State on numerous occasions since the decision was made as it was felt that “errors” had been made by the DfE and these needed to be justified and rectified.

In papers laid out at the meeting, the council highlighted some outstanding concerns including worries pupils with special educational needs and non-Christian students were likely to be “over-represented” in the other schools and under-represented in Kings Priory – meaning there could be adverse effects on those groups.

The papers go on to say: “Despite this, the Secretary of State has not gone on to consider the obvious mitigating step of providing additional funding to schools that will be negatively impacted to ensure that education standards do not fall as a result of the lower pupil numbers.”

Another concern was that the late decision by the Secretary of State’s has left the other schools within North Tyneside with little time to undertake and implement proper transition planning.

Deputy mayor, Coun Bruce Pickard, criticised the DfE and the Secretary of State for the way it has handled the situation and said they should be “ashamed” of themselves.

Coun John Stirling said: “I think we were bypassed in a lot of this. We have had very little chance to see any of the paperwork. We have been left in the dark a bit but legally I think we wouldn’t be able to win this.”

David Bilton, of Woodard Academies Trust who are running the new academy, said: “We are pleased that North Tyneside Council, after two signed funding agreements from the Department for Education, is dropping all opposition to the new academy.

“Community and parent support has been incredible and every entry level at the new academy is over subscribed.”

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