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Planning Permission and New Schools

August 17th, 2011 by Christopher Knight

In the quiet period of the summer holidays, education news had appeared to have packed its bags and disappeared to the beach. However, on 15 August 2011, Secretaries of State Eric Pickles and Michael Gove issued a joint policy statement on the Government’s commitment to support the development of state-funded schools and their delivery through the planning system. This supersedes the statement of 26 July 2010.

In it, a number of principles are set out:

  • There should be a presumption in favour of the development of state-funded schools;
  • Local authorities should give full and thorough consideration to the importance of enabling the development of state-funded schools in their planning decisions;
  • Local authorities should make full use of their planning powers to support state-funded schools applications;
  • Planning conditions should only be those absolutely necessary to making the development acceptable in planning terms;
  • The process for submitting and determining state-funded schools’ applications should be as streamlined as possible;
  • A refusal of any application for a state-funded school, or the imposition of conditions, will have to be clearly justified by the local planning authority, or the Secretary of State will consider it to be unreasonable;
  • Appeals against any refusals of planning permission for state-funded schools should be treated as a priority; and
  • If refused, the Secretary of State will consider carefully whether to recover for his own determination appeals against the refusal of planning permission.

Although the policy statement is expressed to relate to all state schools, there is undoubtedly a strong emphasis on free schools throughout the statement. Many of the bullet points are fairly obvious ones, but the clear warning that the Secretary of State will ordinarily see a refusal of planning permission in relation to a school as unreasonable is a significant shot across the bows.

Shoesmith – permission to appeal to the Supreme Court refused

August 2nd, 2011 by Rachel Kamm

The Supreme Court yesterday refused permission for either Haringey Borough Council or the Secretary of State to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision in Shoesmith v OFSTED and others [2011] EWCA Civ 642.  The Court of Appeal declared that the Secretary of State’s directions, insofar as they purported to remove Ms Shoesmith from her position as Haringey’s Director of Children’s Services, were unlawful and, further, that Haringey’s decision to dismiss Ms Shoesmith was unlawful. See 11KBW’s website for further information on that decision. However, this is not the final word on the matter because the question of damages is still to be decided by the Adminstrative Court (if not agreed between the parties) and there are also other proceedings stayed pending the outcome of this case, including in the Employment Tribunal.

SEN admissions obligations on “old” Academies

August 1st, 2011 by Tom Cross

A judicial review which would have looked at the obligations (if any) on “old-style” (i.e. pre 2010 Act) Academies to admit children with Special Educational Needs has settled.
Prior to the Academies Act 2010, there was no doubt that an Academy, which is, in law, an “independent” school, had no statutory obligation to admit children with Statements naming it in Part 4 as the child’s placement. But the transitional provisions in ss.1 and 15 of the 2010 Act now allow for an argument that, whenever an Academy was established, it now falls under the same admissions obligations as “maintained” schools (even though provision is not expressly made for this in the school’s Funding Agreement) . If this is so, it will be obliged to admit a child if named in Part 4 of that child’s Statement.
Even though a mechanism generally exists in Academies’ Funding Agreements for admissions disputes to be resolved by decision of the Secretary of State, it remains unclear what effect such a decision has in law. This makes the issue above important.
This is not the first time that a challenge raising the issue has been settled since the Act has come into force but it is bound to be decided at some point. A safe bet is that a number of cases will give rise to the issue when Statements are finalised in cases of school transfers (e.g. from primary school to secondary school) by 15 February 2012.