Council moves to delay injunction against Heathside School after abrupt leadership change

The upper school in West Heath Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

The upper school in West Heath Road. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A High Court hearing with implications for the upper school at Heathside Preparatory School has been delayed due to its recent buy-out, Barnet Council has said.

In 2018 the local authority commenced legal action to seek an injunction over a breach of planning control at the site in West Heath Road, Hampstead.

The building, one of six currently used by the troubled private school, has permission to run as a boarding school but not as a day school. At the time of the last Ofsted inspection there were 493 pupils registered at Heathside but just 21 boarders.

Two of the school's former parent entities, Remus White Limited and Heathside Preparatory School Limited, filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators at Bristol County Court on Thursday, June 27.

The following week, UK-wide operator Dukes Education announced it had bought Heathside and would be taking over the running of the school.

In a statement issued to nearby residents last week, the council said the would-be injunction "would require Heathside to take steps to reduce the number of pupils attending on a day basis" to meet the requirements of a boarding school.

A hearing was listed for July 29 but shortly before then, the council became aware that "some of the defendants… had applied for administration and/or bankruptcy proceedings" and later, that the school "may have been sold".

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It added: "In circumstances where the question of ownership, control and occupation of the property is unclear, and in light of the fact that, if there is a new owner, that owner would not reasonably have been able to undertake the steps required to ensure compliance in the small timeframe between acquisition and the hearing, it is very unlikely that a Judge would be willing to grant the injunction."

Aatif Hassan, the founder of Dukes Education and the new chair of governors at Heathside, said: "We have reached out to the council to engage in a dialogue about a mutually acceptable solution.

"I am delighted the hearing has been delayed and I am looking forward to our discussions. I am confident there is a way forward which satisfies the needs of the local community and the school."