Mum’s Battle To Save Misterton First School
A family have launched a High Court legal challenge against their council’s decision to close a school in south Somerset as part of restructuring of the county’s education system.
Somerset County Council has announced its decision to change its three-tier education system of first, middle and upper schools, to a two-tier model for primary and secondary schools.
As part of this decision, Misterton Church of England First School will be closed, leaving the village without a school. Families, supported by the headteacher, governing body and local councillors, have argued that the school should not be shut down as it provides vital services to the local community and has strong links to the local church.
Taylor Larcombe, whose six-year old daughter attends Misterton First School, has instructed specialist education lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to bring a legal challenge to the council’s decision. The legal team has applied to the High Court to bring a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the decision and the preceding consultation process.
Expert Opinion“Proposals to reorganise and close schools are seldom straightforward and it’s important the concerns of communities and parents are heard and taken fully into account when these issues are being considered. We have identified legal grounds to bring the case before the High Court.
“In public consultations, the county council only put forward a single restructuring option which involved closing Misterton First School. There was no alternative put to consultees which included keeping the school open.
“My client feels strongly that the decision was therefore predetermined. In formulating these proposals, the council, failed to take proper account of the impact on children’s education and the presumption against closure of rural schools." Rachael Louise Smurthwaite - Associate Solicitor
Somerset County Council said the decision to reorganise schools was made because of a reduction in the number of pupils.
Under the proposals, Ilminster's Swanmead Community School and Greenfylde First School would be merged into a new split-site primary school. Changes would also be made to Ashlands, Haselbury Plucknett, Maiden Beech, Merriott, St Bartholomew's and Wadham schools.
Taylor, who also has a 10-year-old daughter attending Maiden Beech Middle School, now earmarked to become a primary, said: “Closing our local school is the wrong decision. The changes fails to fully take the impact on the community and our children’s education into account and will be devastating for all connected with the school.
“It’s telling that there was never an option in the consultation for Misterton First School to remain open, which leads me to believe a decision was made on the school’s fate, notwithstanding the consultation process. Misterton First School was also denied the opportunity to convert to a primary school, when others in the area were given this opportunity.
“I feel we need scrutiny by the court of this decision, the public consultation and how far statutory guidance was followed. I question how much genuine engagement with the community there has been to date.
“I would rather not be in this position but feel that the council hasn’t listened to my concerns and the same concerns that others have expressed. I would rather work with the council to come to an agreement but feel left with no other option than to bring this legal challenge.”
Taylor’s solicitors have instructed barristers Steve Broach and Gethin Thomas, of 39 Essex Chambers, in relation to the judicial review claim.