The battle for The King’s School is over, and Labour has lost. As reported in today’s Newcastle Chronicle, North Tyneside Council met yesterday and voted against pursuing a judicial review of the new Kings Priory Academy in Tynemouth. After threatening to halt the merger of the independent King’s School and state Priory Primary School since May, the council has accepted that it is on the wrong side of parents and the local community.
The council is not celebrating the arrival of a new state school. The Labour mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, said of the decision:
‘I have been in education for years and I can’t believe how this process has taken place. I have never known two governing bodies get together and plan secretly’
Redfearn’s remarks demonstrate her lack of understanding of Michael Gove’s academy programme. Parents and governing bodies are supposed to get together and plan new schools, away from the tentacles of the local authority . The battle to open Kings Priory is a victory not just for Gove and Andrew Adonis — both of whom supported the merger from the outset — but also for the parents and local community in Tynemouth. As I reported last month, over 80 per cent of parents at both schools wanted the academy. It is a shame that it has taken the council several months to drop its political motivated opposition.
And the losers? North Tyneside Council are obviously embarrassed, having fought such a public battle against the merger. In particular Ian Grayson, the councillor responsible for education, who was investigated by the BBC for his connections to the teaching unions, will be disappointed. Labour’s Stephen Twigg, who lined to support or oppose the King’s merger, is also on the list.
The battle in Tynemouth is emblematic of the fight for Britain’s education system. No matter how much local authorities wish to retain control of education, the march of free schools and academies continues. As the Education Secretary wrote in the Guardian recently, this government’s reforms are based on ‘evidence, not ideology’ — and he urged Ed Miliband’s Labour party to accept that. After all, the Labour party is responsible for Gove’s revolution, having launched the academies programme under Tony Blair. Labour should be celebrating this new academy; but, instead, the Conservatives are leading the fight for better education.