Legal move for school protestors

Richard Claxton
Richard Claxton

PARENTS opposing the plans to switch Woldgate College to an academy school say they are stepping up their campaign by seeking legal advice.

The group, who fear the standard of education could slip if the Pocklington school were to achieve academy status, say they are taking advice from lawyers with the belief that the way in which the consultation was conducted may be open to a legal challenge.

It follows a vote by school governors last month, which ultimately could see the school removed from under the umbrella of East Riding Council and run as an independent school with direct funding from central government.

Parent to two Woldgate pupils and leading campaigner, Richard Claxton, is leading a group to oppose the conversion. He argues that academies represent the beginning of what he calls the “creeping privatisation in the education service”.

He claims that the Academies Act 2010 imposes a duty to consult prior to a school becoming an academy, but does not provide detailed specifications of how a consultation should be carried out.

Richard Claxton, said: “I think there are a number of serious question marks over Woldgate’s handling of the consultation process. That is the reason we have requested a legal opinion this week.

“Most parents I speak to feel very much in the dark about the full implications of academy status.

“I do not believe we have been given enough information about the proposal or enough time to consider the issues. In my opinion, the information provided by Woldgate is not balanced: it points out what the governors regard as the advantages of conversion but fails to address the disadvantages.

“I am also concerned that some of the information provided is potentially misleading.

“I am calling on Woldgate’s governors to abandon the current consultation and begin again, using the ‘best practice’ guidance laid out by the National Co-ordinators of Governor Services.

“Massive decisions such as this must be taken after a balanced, extensive consultation and an informed debate. They must not be rushed.”

The planned move was defended by headteacher Jeff Bower who says it was a ”rational, considered and pragmatic response to the new education agenda”, and would ensure more control over how funding is spent in the interests of the students.

He said parents had been invited to a consultation meeting where the matter was discussed at length.