Academy ‘will have impact’

King's School. GM016237
King's School. GM016237

Senior councillors have defended their decision to continue their objection to a proposed academy school in Tynemouth, saying the facility will have a big impact on all 30,000 pupils in the borough.

At a special meeting last Wednesday, North Tyneside Council members voted 37-7 in favour of writing to the Secretary of State for Education asking for clarification on his decision to approve Kings Priory School.

If no satisfactory response is received, the council will consider whether to ask for a judicial review to enable a court to review the decision.

The school – a merger of privately-run King’s School and council-run Priory Primary School – is due to open on September 1.

Parents at both schools are keen for the academy to go ahead, but Coun Ian Grayson, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, defended the council’s stance.

Speaking to the News Guardian, he said that the government’s decision had been based on inaccurate information, including that nearby Marden High School – where Priory pupils would go – was over-subscribed and received 304 first choice applications.

Coun Grayson said the school received 304 total applications – including first, second and third preference – but only 177 were first choice.

He added that 60 pupils a year from Priory would now not go to Marden High, meaning a loss of £1.3m in funding over five years.

“The loss of £1.3m would give the school serious financial difficulties that would need to be addressed,” said Coun Grayson. “Marden High has not been oversubscribed for the last six years, there are already surplus places.”

Coun Grayson said the council currently has a 14 per cent surplus of school places but the new academy would push that up to 20 per cent – double the government target.

“The loss of these pupils will create instability in the school system,” he said. “We will have to consider what provision is needed to address it.”

Parents at Priory Primary have hit out at the lack of council investment in the school.

But Coun Grayson said: “In the last financial year, Priory Primary has a surplus of £70,000 they could have spent on any resources and the school chose not to.

“In 2010, the school received £138,000 for capital investment and then £670,000 was earmarked in 2011. That money would have repaired roofs, electrical wiring, windows and removed the mobile classrooms.

“Once the decision was to merge with King’s was made, the council put that (money) on hold and it will now be spent on other schools.”

Coun Grayson defended the late action of the objection saying it was due to the government only notifying them of their decision on July 10.

He added: “While we appreciate that this is an extremely unsettling time for the parents, we believe it would be wrong to allow our concern for them to override our duty to all 30,000 children in our schools.”