See you in Court! School plan in the dock

You have to wonder if when the Conservatives started pushing for voluntary aided Roman Catholic secondary school in the Borough they thought there would be a few ripples of dissent and that it would “all be over by Christmas”. If they did, then they got things wrong. In fact, rather than all being over by Christmas it could be turning into a long, long campaign. The latest news from the front is that the issue is now going to court. Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) has announced that it’s seeking a judicial review of El Brute’s plan to pursue the exclusive, Voluntary Aided (VA) school route before first seeking proposals for an academy or free school as required under the Education Act. (OK, that’s not quite “in the dock” but it certainly made a better headline).

The case is being brought jointly by the RISC and the British Humanist Association. And why have these hippy types got involved, you might well ask. Well, according to BHA chief Andrew Copson, it’s all about challenging the practice of religious providers making arrangements directly with local authorities rather than properly exploring the alternatives. So, a bit of a test case then. Interesting. RISC spokesman Jeremy Rodell said of the BHA’s decision: “We know that the Council and the Catholic Diocese are playing the system to secure the most exclusive type of Catholic secondary school possible. And it has become increasingly clear that the Council has no intention of changing its plans, whatever the outcome of its recent consultation. Only a legal challenge will make any difference, but RISC does not have the resources to mount one. So we very much welcome the BHA’s involvement.”

Meanwhile both El Brute and the RC Diocese of Westminster have criticised the move. The Council has called it “premature” whilst the Diocese has issued a statement saying they believe that “Richmond Council have acted entirely properly in respect of proposals for the establishment of new Voluntary Aided Catholic primary and secondary schools in the borough”.

We can’t help but wonder if El Brute’s persistence on pushing ahead with its support for a Voluntary Aided school with an exclusive admissions policy on a prime school site in Twickenham is going to become its version of the swimming pool saga for the previous Liberal Democrat Council. Obviously not everyone is fretting about schooling in the Borough but then again not everyone across Richmond was bothered about the pool site in Twickenham, but divisive issues can prove damaging at the polls. Just ask the Lib Dems about that.

Stayed tuned for more news on the battle of Clifden Road.

LINKS:
* RISC
* RC Diocese of Westminster
* LBRuT schools page (which interestingly covers the academies programme but not this issue)

10 Comments

Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Schools

10 responses to “See you in Court! School plan in the dock

  1. Gawain

    Any organisation that has Jonathan Meades as a lead supporter is worthy of respec’

  2. George

    It is good to see the Council being challenged on this issue. Given their push to get local schools to convert to academies and their encouragment to get free schools into the area, pursuing this agenda seems wrong. It might well turn out that it complies with the letter of the new education laws but it certainly doesn’t comply with the spirit of it.

  3. Rosa Curling from RISC/BHA’s solicitors Leigh Day & Co said today: “We are concerned the Council is attempting to avoid its legal obligations in relation to the opening of these two new Catholic schools. The Council appears to be of the view that it can open these new schools without holding a competition or inviting proposals from a range of different providers.

    “Despite widespread local opposition, the Council appears to have decided that it can bypass its legal obligations and simply approve the Diocese’s proposals to open two, selective state-funded Catholic schools. We have advised our clients that this is incorrect and the Council’s actions are unlawful.”

  4. Sarah

    Interesting article and good to get an update on the situation. But calling RISC and the British Humanist Association ‘hippy types’ is offensive and stupid.

    • Apologies. The comment referred to only to the BHA and not to the RISC. This site is frequently stupid, often intentionally so, and occasionally offensive, though rarely malicious. We can only apologise for any offence and just hope that the humanists are an enlightened bunch who don’t take our light-hearted accusations of “hippyness” (or is it “hippiness”?) too seriously.

      • Liz

        The thing is, the BHA aren’t hippy types. Humanists are just non-religious people who think you don’t have to be religious to be a good person. Most people weren’t taught the word at school so don’t recognise it, but if you check out this quiz you might even find that you’re a humanist yourself: http://www.humanism.org.uk/humanism/are-you-a-humanist.

        The BHA stand up for the rights of non-religious people. The reason they have money to support cases like this is because they have a dedicated fund for it. Parents are fed up of being told they can’t access schools because they’re not religious, and there’s a real backlash nationally. I’ve been watching the fund total shoot up today since they announced their involvement. See http://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

      • If you had met Jeremy Rodell, the organiser of RISC, who lives in East Twickenham, you would realise that like most people at this end of the town he’s not a ‘hippy type’ either. He is highly organised, perhaps a bit anorakish, probably works in IT – a typical member of the East Twickenham intelligentsia I would say. Eel Pie Island it’s not.

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