Human rights challenge to new academy

7th April 2006 at 01:00
Parents are trying to block an academy in north London, on the grounds that it will threaten children's human rights.

In a move that could have huge implications for the establishment of future academies, lawyers have applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision to close St Mary Magdalene primary school in Islington, which paves the way for a new academy.

Papers submitted by Matrix chambers, which specialises in human rights cases and was co-founded by Cherie Blair, the Prime Minister's wife, say that the "closure of the primary school could lead to a reduction in the rights and protections afforded to pupils and parents".

Under the plans, the school would be demolished and replaced by an all-through academy for four to 18-year-olds, sponsored by the Church of England.

But parents argue that there is a risk that children's access to fair rules over admissions, exclusion, special needs and discipline will be under threat. As independent state schools, academies set their own rules on admissions, exclusions and behaviour, in agreement with the Education Secretary, and are not bound by national codes.

The test case, which seeks a review of the decision by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to close the primary, could have huge bearings on government plans to create 200 academies by 2010.

It comes as a parent was awarded pound;250 in compensation after her son was denied a place at another academy.

The mother, who has not been named, complained after her son was one of 54 children from two closing secondary schools refused a place promised by the council at the new David Young academy, which is sponsored by the C of E and Intercity group. Parents had been told in writing that children would be admitted, even though academies control their own admissions numbers.

Anne Seex, the Ombudsman, criticised the council. "If a promise is made it should be kept," she said.

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said the promise had been made in good faith as it had been "reasonable" to assume places would be available. But the academy had decided it did not have room for 54 young people.

Mr Edwards said the position now was that everyone who had asked for a place - including the complainant - would be on the academy's roll when it opened in September.

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