Enforced Academisation

July 14th, 2014 by James Goudie QC

A judicial review challenge to an enforced academisation has failed in R (Governing Body of the Warren Comphrehensive School) v Secretary of State for Education [2014] EWHC 2252 (Admin).  The case concerns the Warren Comprehensive School (“the Warren”), a mainstream school maintained by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.  The Warren had been placed into “special measures” by OFSTED in February 2013.  On 6 January 2014 the SoS made two decisions with respect to the Warren.  One was to make an Academy Order, pursuant to the Academies Act 2010.  The other was to appoint an Interim Executive Board (“IEB”), pursuant to the Education and Inspections Act 2006.  The following day the Claimants issued an application for permission to seek judicial review in respect of both decisions.  On 12 May 2014, following a consultation on academy conversion, the SoS decided that the Warren should (with effect from 1 September 2014) become an Academy, sponsored by Loxford Academy Trust.  The Claimants also sought to challenge that decision.

The eventual grounds of challenge were in two parts.  First, it was alleged that both the decision to convert the Warren to an Academy and the decision to appoint an IEB were flawed as being based on a material error of fact, namely that the statistical evidence shows that sponsored Academies are more likely to deliver attainment and improved progress in Schools in need of intervention than maintained Schools.  The second was that the decision to convert the Warren into an Academy was flawed as failing to have regard to the level of disruption that would be caused and being irrational.

The case based on material error of fact was not made out on the evidence: paragraph 74 of the Judgment of Supperstone J.

The case based on the allegation of failure by the SoS to have regard to possible disruption to staff and pupils if the Warren converted to Academy status also failed on the evidence: paragraph 78.  At paragraph 80 Supperstone J observed that the SoS appreciated that it was likely that there would be some disruption during the process of Academy conversion, but considered that Loxford would appropriately manage the process in order to mitigate any such disruption.

Supperstone J further ruled, at para 84, that the SoS was entitled to conclude that the persistent under-performance of the Warren meant that steps should be taken without further delay to bring about a long-term sustainable improvement.

11KBW’s Jonathan Swift QC and Joanne Clement appeared for the Secretary of State.

James Goudie QC