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Council tells Bath school to 'admit boys or close'

A Bath school is pressing ahead with an application to become an all-girls academy, against the local council's wishes.

The Conservative-run Bath and North East Somerset (Banes) Council wants Oldfield School to admit boys and has now given it an ultimatum.

Banes said the school has until 1700 on Friday to change its mind or the council will close Oldfield and open a new co-educational school on the site.

The school has not yet commented.

Oldfield is still waiting to hear whether Education Secretary Michael Gove will grant it academy status, taking it out of local authority control.

Consultation exercise

It has been subject to a schools reorganisation review since 28 March when proposals including Oldfield were published as part of the council's consultation exercise.

In a statement, Banes said that the consultation made clear the desire of local parents and families for Oldfield to serve its local community as a co-educational school.

The council said it had now received a copy of a letter from the school's legal representatives to Mr Gove, requesting confirmation that the application to become an all-girls academy has been approved and will be processed.

Councillor Chris Watt, cabinet member for childrens' services, said: "This seems to be a clear attempt to use tenuous legal arguments to frustrate the council's and local parents' legitimate desire for Oldfield to serve its local community as a co-educational school.

"The school is trying to force the decision onto the Secretary of State's desk in an attempt to avoid its obligation to serve its local community, a requirement laid down in the Academies Act.

"This is all the more remarkable considering meetings had been held as recently as last week to discuss the school's conversion to that of a co-educational school."

He said: "No doubt local parents will be greatly concerned about the growing detachment of the school from local accountability, democracy and our local community.

"It also raises questions about what is driving the actions of the school, is it to serve local children or is it to simply preserve its own interests?"

Mr Watt said the council would be writing to Mr Gove to make clear that it will take all measures necessary to ensure the school becomes co-educational.

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