GMB Call On Councils To Adopt Policy Of Binding Parent Referendums On Academy School Conversions As High Court Grants Judicial Review To Barking And Dagenham School
Barking and Dagenham council believes that local parents are the best qualified to decide what's best for their children's education and GMB agree with the council.
GMB, the union for school support welcome the successful challenge bought by the governing body of Warren School and Barking and Dagenham Council following the High Court ruling of 15th January against the decision of the Secretary of State for Education to impose an interim executive board and the order to force the school to become an academy. See notes to editors 1 for summary of the issues in the case from the Barking and Dagenham’s Director of Children’s Services.
Liam Smith, Labour leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said "Barking and Dagenham council believes that our local parents are the best qualified to decide what's best for their children's education.
The hard federation being explored with Robert Clack School has already shown an improvement of 16% in Warren’s results.
As a Council we believe the Secretary of State is wrong to try and force an academy through without consulting the parents and we thank the GMB and NUT for all their support on this issue."
Avril Chambers, GMB National Officer for school support staff, added “The court decision of Wednesday 15th January about Warren School in Barking and Dagenham that is trying to resist imposition of academy conversion by Michael Gove is welcome and we hope it is upheld if there is an appeal.
The school which was the process of implementing a recovery plan, had an academy order imposed on it by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove without parental consultation and the governing body responded by seeking a judicial review of Michael Gove's decision.
Permission to proceed to judicial review was given but that is stayed pending consultation with parents over the schools future. GMB applaud the position taken by Barking & Dagenham Council and the Governing Body as is one that places the emphasis on children's education above that of political ideology of the current government.
The case put by the Council and the governing body of Warren comprehensive on behalf of children, parents and guardians to rightly oppose the unilateral imposition by Michael Gove, Secretary of State to replace existing governors with an "Independent Education Board" is consistent with the principle of the government’s Localism Act, which enables communities to exercise a democratic voice in the running of their service.
The decision of the court has shown that the Secretary of State, Michael Gove should not have attempted to bypass and disregard the views of parents without first consulting them.
GMB supports the governing body of Warren Schools application and the Courts decision, and GMB encourages other council to adopt the model council motion passed by London Borough of Barking &Dagenham to ensure that parents are consulted by a referendum that takes account of the principles of the Localism Act before any decision is taken to convert a school to Academy Status.” See notes to editors 2 for text of the motion.
Contact: Avril Chambers 07974 251766 or Keith Williams, GMB Organiser on 07710 631339 or Gary Doolan, GMB Political Officer on Colin Greer, GMB Organiser on 07974 249745, Mick Vivian, GMB Organiser on 07974 251826 or Daren Parmenter, GMB Organiser on 07725 791833 or GMB Press Office: 07974 251823 or 07921 289880.
Notes to editors
Note 1 Briefing note on issues in the case by Director of Children’s Service (DCS) of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
Here is a quick briefing note on the decision of the high court yesterday on the successful Judicial review challenge brought by the governing body of Warren School (GB) and the local authority (LA) against the decision of the Secretary of State (SoS) for Education to impose an interim executive board (IEB) and academy order (AO).
The GB and LA have tried to ask the S of S to reconsider his proposed IEB and AO. We believe that the alternative arrangements at Warren are working so well for the school, with clear progress being made, that to disrupt these is disadvantageous to children’s education. We believe the situation at the Warren is exceptional, with the established partnership and hard federation consultation underway and therefore should be given appropriate consideration as an alternative to Loxford.
As DCS I am supporting this because I believe the S of S proposal will disrupt the progress being made, and could negatively impact on children’s education.
This was a return hearing as the LA and gb were granted an injunction on the 8th January to stop the Interim Executive Board(IEB) and Academy Order(AO) imposed by the Secretary of State in a letter dated 6th January. The order of the 8th January was in place pending a hearing today. All parties agreed this hearing should be treated as the leave or permission stage of a judicial review (JR). A failure by the court to grant permission to the LA and governing body today would have resulted in an IEB and AO being imposed on the school on the 17th January.
The issues before the court were as follows:
(1) Is it an appropriate time to impose an IEB and AO at Warren when the school is currently consulting on a hard federation with Robert Clack School? Why has the SoS imposed such haste in rushing this matter through when the outcome of the consultation is unknown and why has the SoS not used this opportunity to consult with parents and staff about an AO? This is also pertinent when Ofsted have informed the Director of Children’s Services a further inspection will take place in the first half of this academic term (before mid February) and the results from that will give a clear indication as to the progress the federation is making.
(2) The SoS rationale is that the speed of change is not quick enough at Warren and that with an academy he will have accountability in order to speed up improvements. It was our case that there is simply no evidence to show that the speed of improvement would be any quicker under an academy than it would under a federation which is in operation now and starting to show improvements. The accountability point made by the SoS is also weak as the SoS cannot discharge a funding agreement if an academy is failing in its first two years (if the academy has a sponsor which is proposed here - Loxford School) so in practice it would be less accountable. Greater control would therefore be exercised by the LA and a new governing body through a hard federation.
(3) The Judge repeatedly distinguished this case from the only other case on an academy challenge which is the Haringey case at Downhills school where parents sought leave to apply for JR and leave was refused (2012). He made the point that one could understand the speed that the SoS may wish to proceed when a school is going into special measures and there is no alternative measure in place. However in this case the local authority has followed the advice of the SoS and sought to federate and as such there is a clear alternative in place with an Ofsted inspection due to take place shortly. The judge expressed his concern as to why the SoS should take such a decision at this time and the rationality behind that. He also commented on the upheaval to the school and the time and cost of such a decision and its impact. The SoS’ letter of the 6th January also showed no reasons as to why the partnership with Robert Clack would fail. The Judge further commented that the letter of 06th January suggests the SoS does not have an open mind and has not taken on board alternative arrangements here such as the federation.
(4) During the course of the hearing the Judge adjourned for ten minutes urging counsel representing the SoS to take instructions on whether the academy and federation consultations could take place together - pre the IEB and AO being imposed. The response from the SoS indicated he would only do this if the IEB and AO were confirmed first but he undertook to take into account the responses from the federation consultation. This was unacceptable to the LA and also to the Judge who responded, ‘ you are not giving anything’.
(5) The Judge’s decision followed which was that the interim order from 8th Jan should remain in place (i.e. the injunction granted to stop the IEB and AO carries on) and permission was granted. However the proceedings are stayed (stopped) pending the following. The LA undertake not to put the federation into place until after consultation is carried out by the SoS on an IEB and AO (however no IEB or AO is to be put in place before consultation) and the SoS makes a decision at a later date on an IEB or AO or federation based on responses to both consultations and the outcome of the pending Ofsted inspection. The Judge reiterated that this case should never have come to court as the SoS should have done this before sending his letter on the 6th January. If the SoS seeks to do any of the above without consultation and considering the OFSTED inspection the LA and gb can reapply to the court for a full judicial review hearing.
(6) Finally the SoS has been given leave to appeal this decision to the court of appeal. As of tonight they have confirmed they are still taking instructions. An appeal can only be mounted if an error of law by the Judge can be shown – if they do appeal it would be difficult to show this. (The full transcript of the Judges’ decision will be available soon.)
Note 2 Text of model motion.
1 Consultation on Academy Conversions
Moved by Councillor xxxxxxxx and seconded by Councillor xxxxxxx
The Council notes that school governing bodies now have the authority to convert into Academies via an Academy Order, with meaningful consultation.
Council believes that along with the legal rights of consultation, parents must have the final say on the status of their children's school and education provider.
Therefore, the council calls on any school consulting on whether or not to become an Academy to hold a referendum via a binding recorded ballot of all parents of children in the affected school.
The referendum ballot must take place before an academy order application has been made in respect of each and any school.