The sponsor behind a controversial school merger has claimed there are “no credible grounds” for a council’s bid for a judicial review.
Woodard Academies Trust responded after the Extraordinary Council Meeting on Wednesday evening over the proposed merger of private King’s School and state-run Priory Primary.
In a statement yesterday, David Bilton, CEO of Woodard Academies Trust, said: “We strongly believe that there are no credible grounds for the local authority to consider a judicial review and therefore the pre-intent letter to the Secretary of State just adds to community anxiety as parents wait the outcome.
“The meeting considered a report, prepared by Gill Alexander. We highlighted to Gill on July 17, 2013, that there are inaccuracies in the report which are incorrect and misleading.
“We have also heard that many of the ‘facts’ presented at the meeting were also incorrect and misleading.
“Deciding the future of a school and the education of Tynemouth children on inaccurate information is irresponsible at best.
“Having worked closely with the Department for Education over the last nine months and with the funding agreement being signed by the Secretary of State, we are proceeding as normal in order to open Kings Priory School on September 1.”
The debate over the merger continues to divide opinion with parents and councillors alike in favour and against the proposal.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the vote was 37-7 in favour of sending the pre-intent letter to the Secretary of State.
Supporting the vote, Councillor Nigel Huscroft said: “We are corporate parents and it is our duty to ensure schoolchildren across our area receive the best education they can.”
Mr Bilton has disagreed in the statement released by Woodard Academies Trust. He added: “For the council to bring about this uncertainty at the end of the summer term would tend to suggest that they have little or no concern for the children or the parents who, despite our reassurances, will clearly be worried by the LA’s action.
“The children at Kings Priory School will account for less than 5% of the children in education in the borough.
“The issue of the high percentage of surplus school places, which the council state in their report, is due to their own lack of strategic planning rather than the effect of a new academy in the area.
“It is simply ludicrous to assert that the opening of Kings Priory School will result in the closure of several schools.
“Although not part of her election manifesto, the mayor, Norma Redfearn has made this academy a political issue. There has been no consideration for the wishes of the local community, no acknowledgement that the substantial assets, built up and paid for by King’s School will be accessed by the local community, or that the children in Tynemouth from the ages of four to 18 will receive the very best education.
“At Woodard Academies Trust we are dismayed at this narrow minded stance and want to reassure parents that this academy will open in September as planned.”
The Journal contacted North Tyneside Council, but they declined to comment further on the situation.