Richmond Council’s support for a Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic School in the Borough suffered a blow this week when the High Court gave permission for a judicial review of the Council’s decision to approve the plans. The legal action against the Council is being brought by the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) and the British Humanist Association (BHA). The RISC is opposed to the Voluntary Aided school where places would be allocated on faith-based criteria set by the Church.

El Brute were clearly not impressed by this piece of news and in a terse press release Council Leader Lord True said, “I am disappointed that despite the clear, democratic decision that has been taken by our community, the national British Humanist Association and its local acolyte, have moved forward with their campaign”. Local acolyte? Bam! In your face, RISC! Bet you don’t get press releases like that in Tower Hamlets! The acolyte bit is a reference to RISC main man Jeremy Rodell who is indeed a humanist but is always at pains to point out how the RISC draws its support from people with a diverse range of beliefs and faiths but who share the view that any new school should have an open admissions policy.

The crux of the RISC’s argument is that El Brute’s decision to give the go ahead to a Voluntary Aided school on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham should not have been taken without first seeking applications for academies or free schools. The Council’s view is that its previous consultations have demonstrated clear support for the school and that it acted appropriately. A key point will be whether the new Voluntary Aided school is ‘needed’ as opposed to simply being wanted or desired. When approving the school plans earlier this year the Council was careful to argue that the school was part of a long standing commitment to provide the local Catholic community with its own school rather than as a response to a the genuine, growing demand for school places in the Borough. However, in accepting the application for the judicial review the judge said it was arguable that the Council’s consultation was based on a decision that the provision of additional school places was necessary and, if so, the provisions of the Act (requiring academies and free schools proposals to be sought) should have been applied. This will now be put to the test in the judicial review.

Although fighting a legal action might not sound like the best use of taxpayers’ money, one might also argue that it’s important to be crystal clear that any new school fully complies with the provisions of the Education Act.

The judicial review is expected to be heard in October.

* Council Press Release
* RISC news page