24th Jun, 2021

Campaigners prepare to launch legal action to stop merger of Coventry's two historic independent schools

ACTION4 Henry’s & Bablake campaigners in Coventry say they are ready to launch legal action to stop the merger of the city’s two historic independent schools, pending the Charity Commission’s ruling.

Yesterday (Wednesday April 21) campaigners against the proposals to merge two of the UK’s leading independent schools, Bablake School and King Henry VIII School, announced they are ready to start legal proceedings via a leading education law firm if necessary.

And the announcement comes as the result of an NASUWT ballot for industrial action among teachers, on Coventry School Foundation’s ‘failure to consult and restructuring, including job loss’, is expected on Friday (April 23).

George Fisher, former Headmaster at King Henry VIII School, a former lead inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and spokesperson for Action4 Henry’s & Bablake, said: “We are now just a single term away from when this unnecessary and unwanted merger is due to take place.

“Pupils, parents and staff still have no idea about whether it is going ahead or not and what the numerous implications are for their futures.

“In fact parents are now unable to give the required one term’s notice to withdraw their children from school and the same applies to staff notice, albeit several teachers are already leaving over the proposals.

“Enough is enough; it is abundantly clear that the only professional thing to do for those in power at the Foundation is to stop this merger. It is impossible to deliver it without detriment in the time left.

“Even up to a few months’ ago there was the opportunity for the Foundation to launch meaningful consultation about the future plans for the different schools. Many thousands of parents, pupils, staff, alumni and other interested parties called for this, but inexplicably the calls were ignored.

“The time for consultation has now passed; the Foundation’s stakeholders need to know that they will still be working at, attending or paying for their child to be schooled at either Bablake School or King Henry VIII School in September.

“The Charity Commission has been examining the legitimacy of the actions of the Coventry School Foundation for months and in the meantime all the material things that a merger involves are on hold.

“It is not for me to speak for the Charity Commission, but if they did not have serious concerns about governance failures at the Foundation wouldn’t they have given the merger the green light a significant time ago?

“It is deeply saddening to so many people that the merger plans have not yet been shelved and in response all options are on the table, including legal action to stop this merger. The much-maligned billionaires land grab to create a European Super League had more supporters than the proposed merger of Bablake and King Henry VIII Schools and those behind that realised their error within days.”

Coventry School Foundation’s merger plans are currently subject to a fact-finding inquiry by Charity Commission.

The regulatory body for charities was asked to step in to investigate the proposals following complaints from parents, staff and alumni, and this led to Coventry School Foundation being instructed to put all aspects of plans on hold pending the outcome of the case.

The Foundation announced plans to merge the rival schools by the start of the new school year in September.

That timetable – considered unrealistic by education experts – has less than one term to complete all the material changes ahead of the new school year, should the Charity Commission allow the merger to take place.

Hundreds of parents have expressed their overwhelming disapproval of the plans in a recent survey organised by fellow parents or by removing their child from a Foundation school.

Foundation governors made the merger decision in January 2020 but did not reveal plans to staff, parents and pupils for several months until October 2020 – after applications for the schools’ 2021 intakes had been made, say campaigners.

Coventry School Foundation is awaiting a response from the Charity Commission before it makes any further comments.

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