Prime minister gives his backing to academy plan

A proposed academy involving a state and private school has been hailed an “exciting prospect” by the prime minister as governors deny any wrongdoing.

A government decision is due on whether the proposed Kings Priory Academy, sponsored by the Woodard Academies Trust (WAT), will be able to progress and bring together Priory Primary School and the fee-paying King’s School in Tynemouth from September.

Despite being supported by governors and parents at both schools, North Tyneside Council has raised concerns about the academy.

More than 1,000 parents have signed an online petition backing the academy, and in a government letter, prime minister David Cameron has also given it the thumbs up.

In the letter, Andrew McCully, director general (acting) of infrastructure and funding director at the Department for Education, wrote: “And the prime minister has encouraged the development of what he says is an ‘exciting innovative project’.”

Governors at Priory Primary have also refuted suggestions from the council that some did not disclose their interests or remove themselves from voting on the plans.

In a letter sent to all parents in the borough, the authority said it had concerns about the consultation process, accuracy of financial information, and the decision making exercise of governors.

But governors held another meeting where they unanimously voted for the fourth time in favour of the academy.

In a letter sent to parents, chairman of governors Geoff Ogle said: “The governing body utterly refute the suggestion that they have acted in any way inappropriately.”

The council has also written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to seek assurances after information revealed King’s School has a £5m debt which was not disclosed during consultation.

Coun Ian Grayson, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, said: “We have written to seek clarity on whether the £5m, or any significant outstanding debt, would be met from state funds. If it was, this would be effectively bailing out a school deeply in debt.”

But David Bilton, chief executive of WAT, said: “I can confirm that complete due diligence has been undertaken by the DfE and that the disclosure of financial details are not for discussion during the public consultation process.”