Tories hit out over Tynemouth schools merger opposition

A Labour-led council which threatened to hold a judicial review over a schools merger has been accused of political grandstanding

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

A Labour-led council which threatened to hold a judicial review over a schools merger has been accused of political grandstanding.

North Tyneside Council’s cabinet held a special meeting this week on the decision by the Department for Education (DfE) to support the controversial new King’s Priory Academy in Tynemouth.

Despite having a number of outstanding concerns about the merger, the group decided not to press ahead with a judicial review.

The new school will see King’s School and Priory Primary merge and the DfE is set to enter into a funding agreement with the new body.

The council had a number of concerns about the overall process and the impact the new academy would put on other schools in the area and has called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to reconsider.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, has said that most staff and parents were in favour of the school and that he felt it could drive up standards in the area.

A number of residents have objected about the impact the academy will have on surrounding schools, such as Marden and Monkseaton High, and an increase in surplus places.

Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
Priory Primary School in Tynemouth
 

Concern also remains that pupils with special educational needs and non-Christian pupils were likely to be under-represented at the academy and therefore over-represented at other schools.

The Woodard Corporation, which is funding the school, also supplied answers to a number of concerns the council had and the cabinet voted unanimously not to press ahead with a judicial review.

Coun Judith Wallace, leader of the Conservative group on the council, claimed her Labour colleagues were using the issue to score political points.

“I think that the Woodard Corporation supplied the extra information that the council required and carried out the consultation that had been asked for,” said Coun Wallace.

“The cabinet seemed bent on opposition to the academy, which I think was unnecessary and put parents and children under stress wondering whether it would open or not.”

Coun Wallace also said the process had been a waste of money as the council sought legal advice.

“The residents of Tynemouth were greatly in favour of this and the residents have been hugely supportive of the academy,” she said.

“I don’t think that residents really want to see their money wasted on legal proceedings. The threat of a judicial review has been a waste of money and time.”

But Coun Jim Allan, Labour group, leader, said: “It is not a political matter, it is an education matter.

“We have treated this with sincerity and we have sought to agree with other political parties. It is the Tory party which has broken ranks and turned it into a political matter.”

Coun Allan added seeking legal advice was legitimate.

He said: “It was the right thing to do and I think if the Secretary of State had have played ball and been open with information we would not have had to go down that path.”

The cabinet seemed bent on opposition to the academy, which I think was unnecessary

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