Legal challenge made against new academy

Bosses behind a proposed school academy are confident it will still open this autumn, despite a late legal challenge.

North Tyneside Council has taken initial formal steps towards a court challenge against plans to create Kings Priory Academy – for children aged four to 18 – in Tynemouth.

The authority has issued a formal pre-action letter to the governing body of Priory Primary School to lodge their concern at the decision to seek Secretary of State Michael Gove’s approval to merge with private fee-paying King’s School.

And they have made a formal request to Mr Gove for a fresh consultation process.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “The council has a responsibility to ensure that all children and young people in North Tyneside can access the highest quality education.

“This proposal will have an impact on education in the whole of North Tyneside and it is essential that any consultation on proposed changes to schools is carried out to the highest standard and provides opportunities for all those impacted to feedback their views.

“The impact of the proposed Kings Priory Academy on the wider school system in North Tyneside has not been properly considered.”

The council has questioned the consultation involved as it was limited to parents with children in either school, rather than all affected parents in the borough.

But officials at the Woodard Academies Trust, the sponsor behind the plans, hit out at the council’s actions, saying the letter has no foundation and any review would be robustly countered by lawyers.

Chief executive David Bilton said: “We certainly do not foresee the issue of such a letter, or Judicial Review, preventing the opening of the Kings Priory School in September this year.

“Plans are well advanced and we are firmly on track to open the new school in just over three months.”

He added that consultation had shown 95 per cent of Priory parents and 93 per cent of staff supported the move to academy status, while the oversubscription at entry level for the proposed school showed the support from parents.

“All schools in the local authority area have been consulted and have had an opportunity to feed back their views,” said Mr Bilton.

“It is inaccurate and highly disingenuous of the Mayor to suggest that consultation has not been carried out to anything but the highest of standards.”

When the plans were first announced last September, concerns were raised about the potential impact on other schools in the area.

And some parents have also hit out at the plans after being told their child had a place at Priory Primary School, only to miss out under the admissions policy being proposed by the Trust.