Uplands School: Leicester City Council wins battle with governors

Uplands Junior School
Image caption The judge criticised Leicester City Council and Uplands School's governors for the costly litigation

Leicester City Council has won a legal battle against a primary school's governors who questioned its right to seize control of school affairs.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Thirlwall ruled the authority acted lawfully when it suspended the head teacher and took over the running of Uplands School.

She also expressed her dismay at the £80,000 legal bill between the parties.

The council said it would now apply to Education Secretary Michael Gove to install an interim executive board.

Expenditure 'dismay'

The row began in December 2012 when governors announced plans for a restructure which would see eight teaching assistants made redundant and replaced with "better qualified" teachers.

Staff staged three one-day walkouts and backed a vote of no confidence in head teacher Dr Tim Luckcock and the chair of governors Abid Matak over the cuts and the way the school was being run.

Council officers issued a warning notice in July to governors to build relationships with staff before they eventually took away the board's powers.

Justice Thirlwall criticised both parties for the costly legal battle and said: "At a time of reduced local authority budgets, such expenditure can only be looked at with dismay. £80,000 could have been put to very good use at a primary school.

"The reality is those on each side consider they could better answer the school's problems than the other."

She awarded the council £30,000 in costs.

Image caption Dr Tim Luckcock, who was suspended by the council, said he had lodged a formal grievance

Earlier this week Mrs Justice Thirlwall raised concerns that the interests and education of pupils had been forgotten amid the management row.

Barrister Paul Greatorex, for the governors, claimed the council had reneged on its support of the restructuring under the strain of union demands.

Clive Sheldon QC, for the council, said the school's education provision would be unaffected by the costs.

'Education top priority'

Following the hearing, Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor, said: "The children's education has always been our top priority so I'm pleased this result will allow us to continue the day-to-day running of the school.

"I know over the months just how much effort we put into partnership with the governing body. I cannot think of what we could have done differently.

"I'm still not sure why the governors have done what they have done. We obviously never wanted it to come to this."

Abid Matak, spokesman for the governing body, said if permission is granted by the secretary of state for an interim board, they would stand down.

"We are very disappointed but we acknowledge the court's judgement and will abide by it," he said.

"We were motivated to improve the performance of the school from good to outstanding and were making changes.

"We always acted in the best interests of the children and wanted to take it to the next level.

"Nobody wanted to drag this out for longer than it has and it is unfortunate costs have spiralled out of control."

Dr Luckcock, who was also represented as an interested party in the review, remains suspended but has lodged a formal grievance.

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