Parents launch legal action against Catholic body over “forced” academisation of Wanstead primary school

Parents gather in protest outside Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, in Chesnut Drive, on Tuesday, October

Parents gather in protest outside Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, in Chesnut Drive, on Tuesday, October 30. Photo: Paul Donovan - Credit: Archant

Parents at a primary school in Wanstead due to be turned into an academy have launched legal proceedings against the Catholic body in charge of the school.

Our Lady of Lourdes Primary - along with a number of other schools in the area - is due to be turned into an academy by Brentwood Diocese, the Catholic administrative body that oversees the area.

Parents and Redbridge Council have been fighting the process of stopping local authority involvement in the running of the school, either financially or academically, for months.

The council has been accused by the Diocese of employing "aggressive" tactics in their fight against the school's academisation. Likewise, the Diocese has been accused of "squalid behaviour" by the council.

Now, parents have requested a judicial review into the process by which they were consulted about the plans. They hope to halt the academisation process on the grounds they have not been adequately involved in the decision making process.

A spokesman for the parents said: "Parents have consistently asked for information and an open dialogue and have consistently been met with silence.

"The only times when either the Diocese or School have come forward with information have been when parents have forced their hands, either by constant demand, peaceful protest or pressure from the local and national press. They have not sought to consult freely nor with an open mind.

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"Parents have tried to encourage a meaningful consultation, seeking for both parents' and the local community's views to be heard and taken on board.

"The governing body has in return responded only with empty promises and extended periods of silence and has even publicly stated that they were not given any choice but to ratify the will of the Diocese."

The parents explained they have a legal team and have sent the Diocese a letter informing it of their decision to pursue legal action. They expect a reply within seven days.

Councillor Paul Donovan, of Wanstead Village ward, said: "It is frankly disgraceful that the parents have been pushed to the point where they feel the only way forward is to take legal action."

He added: "The parents have been repeatedly sidelined, with this now reaching the ultimate level of stupidity, with the school failing to facilitate the filling of vacant governor positions.

"The one hope is that the Church finally wakes up to the reality of the situation and stops acting like we are still in the 15th century."

Cllr Elaine Norman, Redbridge Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "The council shares the concerns of those school communities and has previously written to the Brentwood Diocese asking for dialogue between council and Diocesan representatives, and asking for the Diocese to conduct a specific and comprehensive consultation on their proposals with all stakeholders, including parents.

"The council has a clear and unequivocal policy which opposes any school being forced to become an academy against the wishes of the parents, carers, staff and school community. It will continue to use all means possible to engage with the Diocese.

"The council firmly believes that these high performing schools can continue to thrive and succeed for the benefit of the communities they serve without the need to force those communities into having their local school converted unnecessarily into an academy against their wishes."

Brentwood Diocese has been contacted for comment.