Tuesday 21 January 2014

Council scores first on Education Secretary’s plans for academy

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barking and dagenham councilThe High Court has ruled in favour of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham halting the Secretary of State’s decision to convert The Warren Comprehensive School into an academy against the wishes of local residents.

The High Court ruled that consultations on a possible alternative will have to take place first.

This follows a successful challenge brought last week by the governing body of The Warren and the local education authority – the first time the courts have made such a decision.

Yesterday, the High Court supported the local education authority’s view and ruled that the Interim Executive Board (IEB), Academy Order (AO) and a Hard Federation should not be implemented until there had been further consultation, so that the Secretary of State could reach an informed decision on whether the Hard Federation was an effective arrangement, rendering the proposed sponsor unnecessary.

Judge Collins felt that the situation was unusual and differed from previous rulings because the viable alternative of a Hard Federation had not been given due consideration before the Secretary of State made his decision.

Welcoming the decision of the High Court, Cllr John White, Cabinet Member for Children Services said: “We welcome the decision of the High Court which is a victory for local people. This is a victory both for common sense and the education of our children.

“This Council is committed to establishing the best possible education for its children. Our results at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 are now at national levels, despite being one of the poorest boroughs in the country.

“The Warren went into special measures a year ago and the Local Authority acted swiftly and within days established a partnership with Robert Clack School, an excellent school led by Sir Paul Grant to ensure rapid progress. This partnership is recognised to have been successful by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), and acknowledged as helping by the Secretary of State. Results at The Warren have risen by 16 per cent and whilst there is still a long way to go, parents, staff and children are overwhelmingly positive about this partnership.”

Barking and Dagenham Council and the governing body of The Warren are mindful of the importance of a long-term, transparent relationship to stabilise the school, and have worked together and agreed unanimously, to consult on a Hard Federation. This consultation was announced to parents in late December and began formally on 6 January 2014; a development the Secretary of State was fully aware of.

The Secretary of State announced on 6 January, his intention to impose an IEB and Academy Order on the school from 8 January. The local authority then asked for an extension of this time period, and made it clear that it would seek judicial review.

Cllr White adds: “Our position remains that the improvements at the school, and the arrangements we have put in place are having a very positive impact on outcomes for children, and as such, imposing an academy will be disruptive to the children’s education. Governors, and those who have responded to the consultation to date, are very positive about the Hard Federation. The HMI are due to revisit the school in the near future and we are confident the improvements will be noted.

“In Barking and Dagenham, we are committed to improving the educational provision for our children and firmly believe that models such as that developed at The Leys School with Beam School, Warren Junior with Furze Infants School and others are a non-disruptive and a very effective way of bringing rapid improvement to our weaker schools. The link between The Warren and Robert Clack has brought huge benefits to The Warren. One of the deputies from Robert Clack is seconded to be Headteacher at The Warren, and Sir Paul Grant is acting as Executive Headteacher. The two schools now have an exceptionally strong team driving forward improvement. That is why we welcome the High Court’s decision.

Dominic Byrne

NUT Divisional Secretary Barking & Dagenham Association

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