Families Challenge Decision To Close School And Merge Others
A judicial review hearing takes place in the High Court this week after two families were granted permission to challenge a school closure and restructure of the education system in south Somerset.
Families instructed specialist education lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to bring the judicial review against Somerset County Council’s decision, arguing that the council’s plans were unlawful.
The hearing begins today at the High Court in Cardiff and is expected to last two days. It follows the council’s proposal to change its three-tier education system of first, middle and upper schools, to a two-tier model for primary and secondary schools and close a village school.
The council said the decision to reorganise the schools was due to a reduction in pupil numbers.
The first case concerns the family for child one, whose six-year old daughter attends Misterton Church of England First School, set to close under the proposals. The second case involves the family for child two, whose five-year old son attends Greenfylde First School, challenging the merging of non-faith Swanmead Community School, with Greenfylde First School to create a split-site Church of England primary school.
The families cannot be named for legal reasons.
In addition to the shared grounds for judicial review, the second case argues that merging Swanmead and Greenfylde resulting in a faith school is discriminatory against those with no religious beliefs, so therefore is in breach of the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.
Expert Opinion“We have been instructed to challenge the consultation process which has resulted in the Local Authority making a decision to close and restructure schools in South Somerset and both families are pleased that their concerns and the decisions taken by the council will now be scrutinised by judicial review.
“The families have real worries over the impact the proposed changes will have on their children and the wider community and feel the public consultations were unfair and premeditated.
“Schools are at the heart of rural communities, which has spurred these families on to ensure their concerns are fully examined and welcome the start of the hearing.” Rachael Louise Smurthwaite - Solicitor
Commenting ahead of the hearing, the family for child one said: “The proposed changes are not fair and will have a negative effect, not just on our family but on the wider community.
“None of the families wanted to be in court but we believe the decisions taken were final, regardless of the consultation and it matters that this is examined fully, given the impact.”
The family for child two, said; “We have genuine fears over these decisions, given the lack of consultation and engagement. We’re all hoping the hearing will give us the opportunity to see our arguments presented and ultimately give us the ruling we need for our children and villages.”
Irwin Mitchell’s case on behalf of the families will be put forward by barristers Steve Broach, Gethin Thomas and Rachel Sullivan, of 39 Essex Chambers.