Dudley academy decision rushed through to avoid extra costs

Dudley Council’s new education chief has approved the transfer of a borough primary school to academy status. Cabinet member Cllr David Stanley, who took over as head of education after the local elections, has signed off an urgent decision notice to allow Hawbush Primary School to leave local authority control.

The school, on Hawbush Road, Brierley Hill, will join the DRB Ignite Multi-academy Trust with effect from June 1 or within 14 days of that date. The school’s 48 employees, including 14 teaching staff, will transfer to the trust without any changes to pay and conditions while the council has agreed a 125 year lease with the trust at a peppercorn rent.

The decision has been rushed through and not subject to the usual scrutiny process because of restrictions to what civil servants can do during a pre-election period known as purdah. During this time public employees must not publish material which might affect public support for any political party.

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The Secretary of State for Education had already issued an order allowing the transfer on June 1 however a 28 day publicity period would usually be required before the council approves the change. Under election rules council staff could not publicise the change as they would do normally without putting off the change date.

A decision notice from the council said: “Change of timescales for conversion would have a financial implication on all parts as legal documentation would have to reflect the new conditions and date.” Dudley ’s mayor, former school headteacher, Cllr Hilary Bills, and the Children’s Services Select Committee chairperson, Cllr Qasim Mughal, signed documents saying they believe the decision cannot be delayed without prejudicing the council’s or the public interest and ‘the usual publication requirements and the scrutiny call-in procedure shall not apply to this decision’.

The DRB trust currently runs schools including Hob Green Primary School in Wollescote and Bromley Pensnett Primary School in Brierley Hill.

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