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court ref no: CO/2162/95 ...
court ref no: CO/2162/95

A plan to open the nation's first grammar school in years was fatally flawed from the start because the local education authority which proposed it knew it was unlikely to have any control by the time it opened, London's high court was told.

Labour-controlled Milton Keynes BC is urging Mr Justice Ognall to quash the proposal by Conservative Buckinghamshire CC because responsibilty for education will have passed from the county council to the borough council by the time the school opens.

It claims that when the county council announced the school plans in May last year it already knew it was likely to lose control of education in Milton Keynes by September 1998, the date when the first pupils would be admitted.

Counsel for Milton Keynes, Joseph Harper QC, said the knowledge made the proposal fatally flawed because the Education Act 1980, which gives local authorities power to set up new schools, requires them to 'intend to establish' a school themselves.

The word 'establish', he said, meant 'open' and if the county council knew it would have to relinquish power in Milton Keynes by the time the school opened it could not be said to have intended to establish it.

He told the court the county council had known it was likely to lose control of education in the town as early as October 1994 when a report to its education committee referred to the likelihood of the local government reorganisation.

Mr Harper said: 'What was in contemplation was that at the time the school was opened Buckinghamshire CC would not be the education authority.

'It was also their view that nor would they be the authority at the time the school buildings came to be built.

'In other words they would cease to be the authority well in advance of the opening date. That is clear from the report.'

Mr Justice Ognall today declined to consider the borough council's claims that the county council's decision was 'irrational'.

He said the final decision on the scheme's rationality lay with secretary of state for education, Gillian Shepherd, and not with him.

The borough council argues that the school, to be sited in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, is not needed and will result in an over-supply of secondary school places for which local council tax payers may have to foot the bill.

The hearing continues.

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