Having covered the great school debate only recently, we didn’t expect to return to it so soon. Honest, guv! But this latest twist in the story makes interesting reading. Those eagle eyed folks at the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) have spotted that Richmond Council may not have done its homework properly in its consultation over Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic secondary and primary schools in Twickenham.

Under the transitional arrangements of the Education Act 2011, the Act’s new rules (which favour academies and free schools) apply if a Council needs a new school except where formal proposals for voluntary aided schools were published before 1st February. So far, whatever. But here’s the interesting bit…

Despite the debates, petitions and consultations about primary and secondary schools in the Borough and the use of the Clifden site, no formal proposal has yet been published by the Roman Catholic Church for a voluntary aided school. Yes, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster has received Education Secretary Michael Gove’s consent to publish proposals but the Diocese is still running its own consultation and, if you’re sharp, you’ll realise that the 1st of February is now in the past and not the future. In other words, without formally published proposals, the Act’s new rules apply and the Council should be investigating options for an academy or free school before going down the voluntary aided route. Although the Council’s current consultation does refer to the academy option, the way it’s set up is very much focused around the idea of a voluntary aided school in Clifden Road.

Could it be that El Brute is consulting on a plan which doesn’t comply with the new Act? We hope not. The RISC has written to the Council pointing this out and calling for their current consultation to be halted and for the Council to ensure that subsequent actions are fully in line with the relevant legislation.

Jeremy Rodell of the RISC told twickerati, “This could be a major setback for the Council. If we’re right – and the law seems pretty clear – they can’t honestly continue to consult on a set of proposals they can’t deliver. They should at least tell everyone that’s the situation immediately”. Indeed. We suspect that the Council’s legal team will be burning the midnight oil poring over the Act before we get a formal response from them. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what they say. To be continued…

* Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign
* RISC press release
* Previous twickerati item (including the Twickenham free school campaign)
* Richmond Council’s Clifden Road / Catholic School Consultation (runs until 16 March 2012)
* New Local School For Twickenham (wants expressions of interest by 24 Feb 2012)
* Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster Consultation Page (runs to 17 Feb 2012)