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Campaigners to crowd fund legal action over conversion of school to academy

Campaigners against the conversion of a Newham primary school to academy status have launched a crowdfunding page to try to raise the money needed to take the dispute to judicial review.

The Crowd Justice page has so far raised £2,230 towards a £25,000 target.

In a letter published on that page to chair of governors Denis Shea, law firm Bindmans said it believed the conversion would be unlawful.

Bindmans said: “Parents, including our clients, attempted to engage with the Governors in relation to the proposal for academisation.

“We understand, however, that one particular governor stated orally that a decision had already been reached; that neither parents nor staff could challenge that decision and that parents were ‘wasting their time’ trying to halt the process.”

Parents and carers were invited to two consultation meetings last November at which, Bindmans said: “There were a number of problematic features.”

The first meeting lasted only one hour, 40 minutes of which was taken up by a prensentation from the chief executive of Eko Trust, the proposed transferring body.

“The second meeting lasted from around 6.10pm to 7.40pm. A presentation was given by Philip Cranwell, who introduced himself as an ‘independent consultant’, though we understand that he in fact works for the Trust,” Bindmans said.

It said interpretation into other languages had been inadequate and “the governors refused to allow a speaker to present on the disadvantages of the academisation process”.

After further disputes about the security of the consultation process, the governors then wrote to parents that they had “decided that it is in the best interests of the school to convert to academy and join the EKO Trust.

“We will therefore continue the process for the school to convert on 1 April 2018 and will keep you informed about our progress.”

Bindmans also objected to a report produced by Cranwell’s company that it said appeared to find a minority against conversion only by counting abstentions as votes in favour.

In a response, Stephen Doye, principal lawyer community services at Newham’s One Soyurce legal shared service, said: “The Cranwell report detailed the outcome of the consultation and that 94% of parents / carers that responded were opposed to academisation.

“After a lengthy and ordered debate, the governors decided to proceed towards conversion to an academy”.

He said the governors had not predetermined their position and the consultation had bene genuine.

Doye added: “You assert that the consultation process was flawed in three respects. None of these points have any merit; they are based on a misunderstanding of the law and consultation these points have any merit, they are based on a misunderstanding of both the law on consultations and the facts of the present case.”

Mark Smulian

Lexis Information Hub

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