Diocese of Liverpool say "nothing to do with us" as staff left in limbo

Ven Ricky Panter who is the Chair of
Governors at Hawthornes and its
predecessor school St Georges
The Archdeacon of Liverpool, Ricky Panter has moved to clarify the position of the Diocese of Liverpool in respect of the Hawthornes Free School. In a statement issued to this Blog he said:
Please note that no church schools are involved in this very difficult situation, nor does the Diocese of Liverpool Board of Education have any involvement. 
My own involvement is in a personal capacity as a resident in the immediate community which the school serves.
The predecessor school “St George’s Church of England School” is in fact not a Church School at all despite its name but a “community school”. The other predecessor school St Wilfreds is a Catholic School.

Whilst the "Hawthorne’s Trust” who appear little more than a front for the DfE continue to maintain this is a "completely different school" the more you look at it the more incredulous this claim seems.

Let’s look at the similarities:

St George's Website
  • Both schools are on the same site
  • Both schools have the same Chair of Governors (and perhaps other governors)
  • Both schools have the same Headteacher
  • Pupils currently at St Georges’s will continue to attend Hawthornes
  • At least some of the staff are the same
  • The furniture, books, equipment etc all appear to be staying in the school
Hawthorne's Website - note they even use the same photo of the Head

The only real change appears to be the sign outside and the fact that several staff are “not required” in the new school. That and the fact that other students will join the school from St Wilfreds and elsewhere but that hardly makes it a new school.

The well known education barrister David Wolfe has written on his Blog about Free Schools and TUPE. This is certainly a difficult area but as he says:
In order to establish that there has been a transfer of an undertaking, you need to examine the similarities and differences between the closing school and the free school/academy. The following would be particularly relevant in the schools context:

- The identity of the students at the new school
- The curriculum and other activities offered by the two schools
- The additional services offered by the free school
- Whether the free school will use any of the same assets (eg books, furniture) as the closing school
- The name and image of the free school, and whether it capitalises on the reputation of the closing school
- The timing of the closure of the old school and the opening of the free school; - Whether any staff (academic or other) have transferred
- The location of the new school.

As a basic rule of thumb, if the free school/academy is in substance and form the old school – only located at new premises, then it’s very likely that a relevant transfer has occurred. Equally, if the new school includes part of the old school such as an entire year group, then it’s likely that there has been a transfer of part of an undertaking or business.
What is interesting is that the Hawthorne’s Trust have (presumably at the insistence of the DfE) consistently refused to disclose the legal advice leading to their “strongly held view” that TUPE does not apply in this case. Sefton Council asked them several times for this advice but they refused to disclose it.

I have now served an FOI on the Trust asking for a copy of the advice and it will be interesting to see what happens to that.
St Georges 5936415945548413719

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