What is required when promoters consult on setting up a free school?

The short answer is that they should provide proper information about what they are proposing and why, give people a proper chance to respond to that, and then give open-minded consideration to the responses in deciding whether to go ahead.

Another post describes the general process relating to the setting up of a free school.

As part of that process, section 10 of the Academies Act 2010 requires that: “Before entering into Academy arrangements with the Secretary of State in relation to [a free school], a person [i.e. the promoter] must consult such persons as the person thinks appropriate.”

Also: “The consultation must be on the question of whether the arrangements should be entered into.”

As set out in another post, the law lays down some important requirements whenever a public body consults (i.e. they do not just apply to academy/free school consultations).

As for what they might mean in the context of consultation about a proposed free school:

  • it is hard to see how promoters could lawfully not consult in the affected local area with proper publicity; including with potentially affected schools (and their parents/pupils) in the area
  • those consultees need to be given enough information about what is being proposed to understand why it is being proposed – why do the promoters want to set up a free school?
  • they need to be honest about their reasons; and provide proper explanations for them
  • those explanations need to withstand scrutiny – they cannot be nonsense
  • the information needs to be in a form which people can understand – not technical gibberish
  • people need to be given enough time to digest it; and the opportunity to ask questions and for more information
  • if something changes in the course of the consultation, then the consultation may need to be extended for the fresh information to be provided to everyone
  • the promoters need to be open minded on the question of whether to go ahead when they consider consultation responses.

If those things do not happen, then it may well be possible to challenge by judicial review the legality of what has happened.

  1 comment for “What is required when promoters consult on setting up a free school?

  1. January 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Update: they have now given some answers to our questions. They have also leafletted outside primary schools.

    However, they do claim that the school is needed because a local secondary school is oversubscribed, whereas Wandsworth as a borough has surplus places, even when the pupils from Lambeth are included (Lambeth is short of secondary places, apparently).

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