Labour’s war against The King’s School merger continues to be fought fruitlessly, despite rebuttal after rebuttal from the Department of Education. As first reported in the Spectator two weeks ago, Michael Gove has signed off funding for the independent King’s School and state Priory Primary School in Tynemouth to merge into the new Kings Priory Academy. North Tyneside Council are not happy with Gove’s decision and decided to call an ‘Extraordinary Council Meeting’ last week to decide what to do next.
Like many of the school wars in Britain, Labour’s response has been a bureaucratic one. If they can keep the indecision rolling until September, the new academy would be delayed and possibly never open. The council therefore wrote to the DoE, urging them to reconsider their decision.
Following the council’s letter, Lord Nash has written to the Woodard Academies Trust — proposed owner of the new Kings Priory Academy — to inform them the funding is safe and as far as he is concerned, the plans will go ahead. Coffee House has a copy of the letter sent today:
As reported in the Newcastle Chronicle, the council are chiefly worried about protecting their school empire. They predict if King’s moves into the state sector, parents may no longer want to send their children to council-prescribed secondaries in the area, instead choosing the best possible school. New and better schooling places are not something North Tyneside Council appears to favour.
If there is any doubt whether the fight is politically motivated, one simply has to examine who is leading the charge. Councillor Ian Grayson, responsible for education in North Tyneside, is also a local NUT official, the teaching union who are coincidentally striking later this year in opposition to Gove’s reforms. The BBC are now on Grayson’s case, examining this potential conflict of interest. This is what Radio Newcastle had to say on the matter this morning:
It appears Grayson has not been entirely transparent about his dual roles. One parent explained there have been at least two council meetings where Grayson has failed to declare any potential conflict of interest over the new academy. He declined to be interviewed by Radio Newcastle today, stating he has already adequately explained why his union role has no impact on his councillor role.
It’s staggering that someone so ideologically opposed to academies is still publicly arguing the plans should be scrapped. Hopefully, Grayson and North Tyneside Council will now accept the merger is the best thing for the borough’s children. Their only remaining option is to instigate a full judicial review — which would be costly, a waste of time and most importantly, detrimental to education provisions in North Tyneside. With parents, the local community and both schools backing the Kings Priory Academy, Labour appears to be still fighting the merger purely for its own benefit.
UPDATE: Here is the full letter Lord Nash has sent to North Tyneside Council, outlining why the Department of Education has not changed their mind on supporting the merger: