Campaigners lose battle to halt academy plan
Susanna Wilkey PLANS for the Swiss Cottage academy are moving full steam ahead after parents lost their hard-fought legal battle over Camden Council s sponsorship choice. The council was accused of forging a backroom deal last year when it put University
PLANS for the Swiss Cottage academy are moving full steam ahead after parents lost their hard-fought legal battle over Camden Council's sponsorship choice.
The council was accused of forging a backroom deal last year when it put University College London (UCL) in charge of the academy despite huge opposition.
At the judicial review in November, brought by Kentish Town parent Gillian Chandler, lawyers also accused schools secretary Ed Balls of breaking European competition law.
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Campaigners claimed the lack of open competition was unfair because they wanted all different types of schools to be considered.
But Mr Justice Forbes found there was no bias in the sponsor process and ruled that EU regulations did not apply to academies.
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Last Friday's judgement said: "The evidence plainly shows that the council's decision was entirely based on the view that the UCL proposal offered 'significant and .... lasting benefit to the education of pupils in the borough'."
But Richard Stein, acting for Ms Chandler, said: "We are really disappointed and we will now be appealing. We do not see that the judge really dealt with any of our grounds and we hope we do better in the court of appeal.
"We think the academy should be totally stopped and we hope to get a hearing as soon as possible."
Camden Campaign for State Education member Luca Salice said: "Obviously we are very disappointed. Now we will just have to make sure that the new academy will not be too disruptive to the general education in Camden especially from the point of view of admissions. We really hope that UCL will work with the rest of the borough's schools but we are disappointed there is no mechanism to control it."
Kevin Courtney, of Camden NUT and the Anti-Academies Alliance, added: "We have all sorts of concerns about academies but we are really concerned about the impact that these proposals have on the special schools which are currently on the site.
"We do not want the council to rush ahead just because they have won this legal judgement. They really need to make sure what happened to these schools is really thought through."
UCL welcomed the decision and says it is looking forward to opening the academy in 2011.
It will accommodate 1,150 pupils on the site at Adelaide Road.
The university says it will follow the council's admissions code and benefit pupils from all backgrounds across the borough.
But Hugo Pierre, of Camden Unison, said: "We think it will damage the educational interests of Camden children and disrupt the family of schools."
Camden Council welcomed the decision which it says vindicates the decision-making and consultation process that it undertook.
Schools boss Cllr Andrew Mennear said: "I am relieved and it certainly is a big cloud that has been lifted. It is a big boost but we are still wary because there is still a possibility they will appeal.
"Camden has a recognised need for eight additional forms of secondary school entry.
"The Building Schools for the Future programme is an investment which will modernise all our schools for the benefit of our children and young people."