Wales

Brynmawr Foundation School loses sixth form battle

A school has lost its legal battle over the future of its 200-pupil sixth form.

Blaenau Gwent council proposed shutting the sixth form at Brynmawr Foundation School to make way for a new college on part of the old Ebbw Vale steelworks.

But the school had argued its foundation status meant it was outside council control.

However, a High Court judge has ruled assembly government ministers acted correctly in delegating the decision to the council.

Judge Mr Justice Beatson ruled in favour of the assembly government, saying it was within its rights to delegate powers to consult on the closure.

Council control

Brynmawr had claimed the council did not have the right to intervene as it is a foundation school, which makes school admissions independent from council control.

In a legal campaign led by headteacher, James Retallick, the school accused ministers of unlawfully delegating the decision making to the local authority.

Image caption Parents and pupils presented a 2,000-name petition opposing closure in October

Lawyers also raised questions about the council's consultation process, arguing Blaenau Gwent's position was influenced by bias, "predetermination" and irrationality.

The judge said the school's complaints were either not legally sound or brought to court too late.

He said the council's scheme was part of a wider project, in the council's words, to "re-skill and up-skill the population of Blaenau Gwent".

The rationale behind the ministers' decision to delegate to the council was that "it is preferable for there to be a single 'holistic' consultation exercise on school re-organisation in the area which involves all the schools in the area", the judge said.

Preferred option

He rejected claims made by Tim Kerr, QC, for the school's governors, that the council's decision had been "predetermined", pointing out that consultees were invited to put forward alternatives for due consideration.

The school had argued the timing of the consultation was unfair - because much of the consultation period fell during the summer holidays when many parents and others were on holiday.

The judge ruled this argument had been put forward too late.

The school will face court costs to be decided at a later date.

The decision to close the 200-pupil sixth form has not yet been taken but it is the council's preferred option.

The sixth form would close in September 2012.

An assembly government spokesperson said: "Following the judicial review decision, the minister will now consider the proposals submitted by Blaenau Gwent, for the reorganisation of secondary schools, including the provision of post-16 tertiary education, delivered from The Works site at Ebbw Vale.

"The Welsh ministers also entered into a similar arrangement with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council regarding the sixth form of Bishop Hedley High School.

"Given the court have now confirmed that such an arrangement is lawful, the minister will also now consider the proposals submitted by Merthyr Tydfil for the reorganisation of post-16 education in its area."

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