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Clive Rawlings in landmark Court of Appeal case

Court of Appeal dismiss claim against closure of Pimlico School and establishment of Pimlico Academy

 C1/2008/1285 24th July 2008

LJ Before Rix , LJ Thorpe ,  LJ Longmore

In reserving reasons, the Court of Appeal dismissed a judicial review claim with costs, brought by opponents of the closure of Pimlico School in Westminster and its replacement by the Pimlico Academy to be run by Future Academies. Permission for this judicial review had been refused on paper by Cranston J on 24th April 2008 as unarguable. Kenneth Parker QC, sitting as a high court judge heard the renewed permission application as a rolled up substantive hearing over a day and a half and gave judgment on the 28th May 2008 refusing permission [2008] EWHC 1287 (admin). The claim was retained for full hearing by the Court of Appeal by Laws LJ in granting permission to appeal the refusal of permission for judicial review by Kenneth Parker QC and granting permission for a judicial review.

The Future Academy will now open as planned on the 1st September 2008 a day after the Pimlico School officially closes.

The claimant, a parent of three children attending the Pimlico School, alleged that Westminster had acted unlawfully in the manner in which it took the decision to close the school on the 17th March 2008. In particular the process was challenged for a failure during the statutory pre- proposal and post proposal notice periods, to provide consultees, including parents and teachers, with a draft Funding Agreement or equivalent document drawn up between the Academy sponsors, Future, and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The claimant alleged that absent the draft agreement or its equivalent, consultees had insufficient detailed information on matters such as the proposed governance, admission arrangements and curriculum, upon which to make an intelligent and considered response per common law consultation obligations. The claimant also alleged that the final Funding Agreement was materially different from the original proposal in that it permitted a form of ‘fair banding’ as a future over subscription admissions criteria.

All grounds were dismissed. Reasons are awaited and are expected to reiterate the right of local authorities to conduct a consultation exercise regarding discontinuance of a school or schools in tandem with replacement by an academy without having to provide a draft funding agreement or its equivalent during the consultation periods provided that the information made available during the statutory consultation periods is sufficient and timely. The decision is expected to reiterate the judgment of Kenneth Parker QC that the information provided was sufficient to enable consultees to give an intelligent consideration of, and response to the proposal to close the school, and that the detail demanded of that information need not go beyond the statutory guidance, which is cursory, and need not be akin to the detail automatically available were a maintained school being replaced with another maintained school.

Clive Rawlings

Counsel for Future Academy

Instructed by Lewis Silkin