Exclusive: Legal Challenge to Beccles Free School

This Blog can exclusively reveal that the Beccles Free School approval is being challenged legally. Lawyers acting on behalf of Sir John Leman High School have written to the DfE threatening a judicial review of the decision to sign the funding agreement for the Beccles Free School.

The challenge is on the grounds of the way the consultation and impact assessment were conducted. Readers of this Blog will remember that the consultation actually revealed more support against the school. The DfE managed to avoid releasing the consultation until after decision had been announced.

The DfE is supposed to carry out an impact assessment  of the effect on local schools prior to signing the funding agreement but Sir John Leman High School were apparently not even consulted a part of this process. The DfE have yet to release this impact assessment and have refused to release the assessments for previous free schools.

I wrote a post some time ago about possible legal challenges that explains the Academies Act and the scope for legal challenge.

Meanwhile at least one DfE civil servant has broken ranks and spoken out against the increasing politicisation of the Department. Opening a Twitter account called @DfEInsider one civil servant says:
The purpose of this account is to help DfE civil servants expose the terrible, unhappy state of our department. We are proud to serve any government, but not to be politicised, bullied or blamed for ministerial mistakes.
DfeinsiderIn the Beccles and Bungay Journal this week  Seckford’s Graham Watson admitted the campaign against the free school had reduced demand saying:
This campaign has caused the demand for places to reduce since the application was submitted. However demand remains strong for the places available. 
The experience of other free schools is that once the staff have been appointed, and the building confirmed, demand increases. It is expected that in year two demand will exceed the places available.
He seems to have forgotten his promise not to impose the school if the demand was not there….having admitted the reduction in demand it is now clear that Seckford broke their promise:
We have consistently made clear that if, contrary to our understanding, the desire is not there, then we will have no wish to impose a free school on the community.
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