Permission granted in challenges to Somerset school restructuring

Permission has been granted by Morris J in respect of two joined judicial review claims, challenging Somerset County Council's restructuring of its schooling system within Crewkerne and Ilminister.

Both claims contend that the Council has: (a) failed to carry out a lawful consultation, (b) made a decision the basis of unlawful predetermination, and (c) acted irrationally. 39 Essex Chambers counsel are instructed for the claimants in both claims, with Steve Broach leading the counsel teams.

Steve and Gethin Thomas act on behalf of WC (by her mother and litigation friend TL). WC attends Misterton First School, which will be closed under the restructuring proposals. In formal public consultations, the Council put forward only a single restructuring option which involved closing Misterton First School. There was no alternative put to consultees which included keeping the school open.

Steve and Rachel Sullivan  act on behalf of BB (by his mother and litigation friend HP), in a challenge to the proposed closure of Swanmead Community School (a non-faith school), and its amalgamation with Greenfylde First School into a Church of England primary school. In addition to equivalent grounds to those advanced by WC, BB's claim contends specifically that: (i) the decision indirectly discriminates against him contrary to section 19 of the Equality Act 2010, and (ii) breaches Article 14 of the ECHR taken with Articles 8 or 9. The claim also advances a ground contending a breach of the public sector equality duty, which Morris J ordered to be determined at a rolled-up hearing to address the issue as to BB's standing on this ground.

The claims have been expedited, and will be heard together in October in Cardiff.

Steve, Rachel and Gethin are instructed by Rachael Smurthwaite of Irwin Mitchell.