Legal bid to stop merger

Protesting parents at KEQMS (from left) Ray Aliss, Steve Sharples, Andrea Sharples.

Protesting parents at KEQMS (from left) Ray Aliss, Steve Sharples, Andrea Sharples.

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PARENTS fighting to stop the merger of two public schools have hired a barrister as their challenge picks up support.

A group of concerned adults, led by Ray Allis, who has two daughters at King Edward and Queen Mary School (KEQMS) in Fairhaven, voted to do everything they could to stop the link-up with Arnold School in South Shore.

This has led them to enlist the help of Fylde MP Mark Menzies and send a formal letter of objection to KEQMS’ governors to stop the plans.

Mr Allis said he has now formulated a business plan to maintain the school’s independence.

He added: “We are looking at a number of legal challenges and are currently in discussions with barristers.

“We think there are a number of things we can challenge and we will be going ahead with this over the next few days.”

Mr Allis said the situation could have been avoided if the governors of KEQMS and the United Church Schools Trust (UCST) – the governors of Arnold – had held a consultation period before going ahead.

He added: “We are trying to do everything without taking it down the legal route.

“We tried to engage with the governors and with UCST to have a meaningful conversation about this, but the fact UCST and the governors were so keen to do this, left us with no choice.”

Mr Menzies recently met with the governors of KEQMS to discuss the situation and said they remained convinced a merger was the best way forward.

He said: “They were open and honest about the mistakes made in the initial handling of communications around the merger, in particular the way it was announced and communicated to parents. They also indicated a willingness to improve communication and respond as directly as possible to concerns set out in parents’ letters.

“The governors are now fearful that the turbulence that has been created could irreparably damage the school. I hope better communication will improve relations between parents and governors and help prevent that from happening.”

As part of the merger, UCST is investing £6m in the facilities of the new school and hope this will encourage parents to send their children to the new school.

In a letter written to Mr Menzies, Charlotte Rendle-Short, acting chief executive of UCST, highlighted recent job losses at BAE Systems nearby.

She said: “The irony of the situation is the steps we’re taking by merging the two schools will ultimately preserve both jobs and the supply of independent schools places on the Fylde.

“In a week where your constituency has been hit with devastating news for many local families with regards to their future, I hope you will understand our actions have been taken to secure a stronger future for our employees, parents and pupils.”