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Statutory Guidance on School Organisation

Volume 591: debated on Monday 19 January 2015

5. Whether her Department monitors local education authorities’ adherence to its statutory guidance on school organisation. (907038)

The Department responds to any concerns that are raised with us, but has no formal role in the decision-making process.

Parents are raising concerns with me about the consultation on the possible closure of Glenburn sports college. They are particularly concerned that no assessment has been made of transport issues, and no statements on special educational needs or the possible impact on the use of community facilities have been issued to accompany the consultation. Perhaps most important of all, there is a major conflict of interest. Given that the acting chair of the Glenburn foundation trust governors is also the head of Lancashire county council’s directorate of education, is he acting as judge, jury and executioner? Parents want to know from the Minister whether this process is being handled fairly, and, indeed, what they can do if it is not.

I know that the hon. Lady is concerned about the situation. I should be happy for her to raise her concerns with me, and I should be happy to consider them, although, as she will understand, the Department has no formal role. The formal process requires representations to be made to the local authority, and potentially to the local government ombudsman. She will be aware that if the governing body does not like the decision reached by the local authority, it can appeal to the schools adjudicator, which is able to deal not only with issues of process but with issues of substance.

The organisation of Hexham high school, which the Minister visited only last year, would be considerably improved by its inclusion in the second-priority school building programme. When will a decision be made about the programme?

I know that my hon. Friend is passionate about this matter, and he has been particularly ingenious in raising it under the current subject heading. I have noted his strong representations on behalf of the school, which we will bear in mind as we make our decisions on the programme over the next few weeks.

The ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman is matched only by the generosity of the Chair in affording him that opportunity. I am sure that he is keenly conscious of that.