Future of Academy is thrown in jeopardy

CONTROVERSIAL plans to open a university-run academy school in Swiss Cottage could be derailed at the High Court. This week lawyers came to an agreement that the process by which the Town Hall chose University College London to sponsor its planned £30mill

CONTROVERSIAL plans to open a university-run academy school in Swiss Cottage could be derailed at the High Court.

This week lawyers came to an agreement that the process by which the Town Hall chose University College London to sponsor its planned £30million Adelaide Road academy should be re-examined by top judges.

Camden Council was accused of forging a 'backroom' deal last year when it put UCL in charge of their flagship academy, despite huge opposition.

If a judge decides the process was unlawful, it will plunge not just Camden's plans into doubt, but the government's academy programme across the country.

"This could derail the whole thing," said lawyer Richard Stein. "It could mean that plans will basically have to be sent back to the drawing board because the council did not go through a fair process of choosing a sponsor. Now they will have to go right back and hold an open process and give everyone the right to bid."

The decision reopens the Church of England's interest. CoE schools campaigner Penny Roberts said: "We always felt there should have been a competition. The council process was neither fair nor transparent, so we welcome this development.''

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Education chiefs sparked anger when they refused to hold an open competition to decide the most appropriate sponsors for the contentious academy.

Supporters of the Church of England and community schools, who had demanded an open competition, cried foul, claiming their cases had been brushed aside.

Bosses at UCL caused further controversy by refusing to enter into a competition and would only accept taking charge of the specialist science and maths academy if they were chosen directly by Camden.

The academy is due to open in 2011, by which time the government aims to have 200 similar schools across the country..

The court, which will hear the case in the autumn, will review not just the process taken in Camden but the procedure by which the government chooses private sponsors to run academies. "The decision taken by Camden shows local government in a very bad light," said Mr Stein. "Camden has traditionally had a reputation for being open and making difficult decisions in public, but this was a significant departure from that.

"As someone who is committed to local government, I expect the court to see this as unacceptable behaviour."

Mr Stein, a former Labour councillor in Chalk Farm in the 1980s, is acting on behalf of a parent who initially brought the cases against the council and the secretary of state.

"We want this to be heard as soon as possible as we don't want to delay things. This is not about sabotage, it is about making it all happen properly," added Mr Stein.

The Town Hall's education chief Andrew Mennear admitted he had no idea how the case would go.

"I am not Mystic Meg, I am not even Mystic Mennear when it comes to this case. I just want it all sorted out as soon as possible," he said.

"I still feel confident we have done everything we were always meant to do. It strikes me the issue is whether the government's own rules are in accordance with European law. We just want it resolved and in the meantime we will continue as normal."

The case is due before the High Court in the autumn. Chairwoman of the Campaign for State Education (Case) Lucy Anderson said: "We are delighted and this vindicates our position.

"All that people wanted was a choice and a proper decision."

r-old Karin in 1996 in Israel.

They divorced a year later but remarried in 2000, only to divorce again in the civil courts last year.

He is now seeking the final religious seal of approval on the split which will mean they are free to remarry.

After going through two Jewish law courts, he has found a third to force it through, without her approval and against her will if necessary.

"The couple are already divorced by English law so they live separate lives. It is essential to break the religious marriage because the physical marriage has gone already," said a spokesman for the Sephardi Beth Din (SBD) court.

"We wrote three letters to Mrs Gabay asking her to come and say what she wants and none were answered so the divorce was given."

Under Jewish law a husband must obtain a divorce bill, known as a 'get' and the wife must accept it for the SBD to grant a full divorce and allow them to remarry.

When the SBD issued the get earlier this year, Mrs Gabay refused to accept it. At the moment, neither can remarry until she accepts it but the SBD does have the power to force it through against her will - something normally reserved only for adulterers.

"We believe she will collect it, and once collected she is divorced. Should she not accept it she will go through a procedure [to grant the divorce anyway]. She will be given every possible opportunity to collect it first," said the spokesman. "We did this to protect her. We do not want her to be an agunah [a chained woman]."

Among Mr Gabay's complaints is that she wore "provocative" clothes. Mrs Gabay denies other allegations about her behaviour during the marriage.

She was unavailable for comment, but Mr Gabay told the Ham&High he believes she has not accepted the divorce.

He said: "I just want to move on with my life. I feel so sorry for the children. When you cross a certain barrier, there's no return.