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Legal Aid Agency u-turn gives boost to parents fighting to save High Weald Academy, in Cranbrook


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An unexpected u-turn has seen funds granted to help parents mount a legal challenge against the closure of their children's school.

Many were left outraged when it was announced in September that the government has decided to close High Weald Academy, in Cranbrook, by next September.

A packed public meeting in Cranbrook, to discuss the future of the High Weald Academy
A packed public meeting in Cranbrook, to discuss the future of the High Weald Academy

A working group to fight the closure, led by Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant, aims to challenge the government's decision through a judicial review process, arguing not all the alternatives were properly considered.

However, the Legal Aid Agency turned down a request for funding of the pre-action stage, leading the group to secure the £7,000 needed themselves.

The pre-action stage involves obtaining an opinion on the merits of the case from a specialist barrister.

However, Ms Grant announced today that legal aid has now been granted, just hours after fundraising target was reached.

Ms Grant said: "I am delighted that legal aid has been granted to help fight this decision. Clearly the Legal Aid Agency believe there may be genuine merit to our case, which justifies the use of public funds to investigate the situation. It is no less than the pupils, parents, teachers and our local communities deserve.

High Weald Academy, in Cranbrook, is set to close Picture: Andy Jones
High Weald Academy, in Cranbrook, is set to close Picture: Andy Jones

Solicitors and a QC are now preparing a a 'letter before claim' to go to the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi.

Ms Grant added: "Our working group’s efforts have been rewarded by the generosity of the Cranbrook community and its surrounding villages and parishes.

"I want to express my upmost thanks to all those who have donated and been instrumental in getting this campaign off the ground.

"Each donation shows just how important this school is for the town and that the people of Cranbrook will not let it be taken away from them so easily."

Continued poor Ofsted reports and falling pupil numbers have been cited as reasons for the closure, but parents have criticised the handling of the announcement.

A public meeting was organised by Helen Grant to oppose the closure of High Weald Academy in Cranbrook
A public meeting was organised by Helen Grant to oppose the closure of High Weald Academy in Cranbrook

Year 10 students are to leave after Christmas term, with all pupils offered places at Mascalls Academy, in Paddock Wood.

Mascalls is run by Leigh Academies Trust, which also manages High Weald Academy, but parents have argued the school is too far away, and they weren't given enough time to find an alternative- with the deadline to accept a place on October 22.

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Weald

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