The Evening Standard is reporting that the High Court has stopped a troubled school being converted into an academy against the wishes of local people – until there have been consultations involving a possible alternative…
It is believed to be the first time the courts have applied a judicial brake to an academy decision made by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Justice Collins granted an injunction preventing immediate moves to academy status at the 1,285-pupil Warren Comprehensive School in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, which has been in “special measures” because of its poor performance.
The judge said it seemed the present secretary of state “thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers – but we know some of them are not”.
Sarah Jane Scrace, chairman of governors at the school, said: “We are delighted with the judge’s decision. It is the first time an injunction has been granted to stop new governors being parachuted in to a school after an academy order has been made.
“We want all the options to be considered without disruption to the children’s education, and then whatever decision is made the (current) governors will accept.”
The school was put in special measures status by Ofsted in February last year and has since been subject to regular inspections.
Mr Gove decided last week to make an academy order under the Academies Act 2010, taking the school out of the hands of the local council.
He proposed that the new academy should be sponsored by Loxford School of Science and Technology and decided to set up a new governing body composed of interim executive members appointed under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
Today Mr Justice Collins, sitting at London’s High Court, said the local authority had taken steps to achieve improvements at the school, but these were regarded as unsatisfactory by Ofsted in May last year.
The local authority had then decided on a “formal arrangement” with the nearby Robert Clack School – “an excellent school by all accounts”, said the judge.
This involved both schools in a “Federation” with a single governing body and Robert Clack’s existing “excellent” headmaster being given ultimate control.
The judge said the Education Secretary took the view this arrangement would not achieve the results that would be achieved by a sponsored academy.
He also argued that a proposed joint consultation exercise to consider the best option could take place after the academy order took effect.
Disagreeing, the judge said: “That it would be desirable for the order not to be made, and the consultation exercise carried out under existing arrangements, is, I would have thought, obvious.”
Keeping the status quo and the current governors in place would avoid having to “unscramble” the set-up for an academy if the secretary of state was persuaded by consultations that academy status was not after all necessary.
The judge said: “The secretary of state is entitled to take the view that an academy is preferable and it is clearly a matter for him as he is the decision-maker in that regard.
“But it seems to me he has to have regard to the facts of individual cases, and this is an unusual case.
“There are these alternatives in place which may well produce necessary improvements.”
The judge said Ofsted was due to carry out a further inspection, possibly before the end of February, and this could indicate whether progress was already being achieved…
He gave the Education Secretary permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the imposition of the interim injunction blocking the academy order taking immediate effect.
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