There is no guidance dealing specifically with what constitutes ‘collaboration’. However, there is ample statutory provision and guidance concerning school closures, setting out the processes which must be followed prior to a school closure. This includes consultation with local schools and parents and governing bodies of local schools.
Relevant statutory provisions
- the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (EIA 2006) as amended by the Education Act 2011 (EA 2011)
- the School Organisation (Prescribed Alterations to Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/3110
- the School Organisation (Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools) Regulations 2013
- the School Organisation (Removal of Foundation, Reduction in the Number of Foundation Governors and Ability of Foundation to Pay Debts) (England) Regulations 2007, SI 2007/3475
Relevant statutory guidance
Who can close a school?
A local authority can propose the closure of all categories of maintained school, following a five-stage statutory process which is set out in the Opening and Closing local authority maintained schools guidance.
- Stage 1: Consultation—there is no prescribed timescale but it is recommended to last a minimum of six weeks and ought to avoid school holidays where possible. It is likely to be no longer than 12 months
- Stage 2: Publication—this involves the publication of the statutory notice and proposal
- Stage 3: Representation—it must be four weeks (at least) from the date of publication. This is a formal consultation as prescribed in the Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools Regulations and cannot be shortened or lengthened
- Stage 4: Decision—the local authority should decide a proposal within two months otherwise it will fall to the Schools Adjudicator. Where permitted, appeals must be made within 4 weeks of notification of the decision to the Schools Adjudicator
- Stage 5: Implementation—there is no prescribed timescale, however the date must be as specified in the published notice, subject to any modifications agreed by the decision maker
The governing body of a voluntary, foundation or foundation special school may also publish proposals to close its own school following the statutory process. Alternatively it may give a least two years notice of its intention to close the school to the Secretary of State for Education and the local authority.
Relevant factors to consider before closure: EIA 2006, s15
The decision maker (ie the local authority/or governing body of a voluntary aided school) should be satisfied that there is sufficient capacity to accommodate displaced pupils in the area, taking into account the overall quality of provision, the likely supply and future demand for places. The decision maker should consider the popularity with parents of the schools in which spare capacity exists and evidence of parents’ aspirations for those schools.
Schedule 2 of the Establishment and Discontinuance Regulations prescribes the information that must be included in a proposal to close a school.
Who to consult?
- The governing body
- Pupils at the school (section 172 of the Education Act 2002)
- If a proposal involves or is likely to affect a school which has a particular religious character, the appropriate diocese or relevant faith group (under the DBE Measure 1991 Church of England Schools must consult with their diocese before making closure proposals)
- Any local authority likely to be affected by the proposal, in particular neighbouring authorities where they may be significant cross-border movement of pupils
- The governing bodies, teachers and other staff of any other school that may be affected
- Parents of any pupils at other schools who may be affected by the proposal including, where appropriate families of pupils at feeder primary schools
- Any trade unions who represent staff at the school; and representatives of any trade union of staff at other schools who may be affected by the proposal
- MPs whose constituencies include the school that is the subject of the proposal or whose constituents are likely to be affected by the proposal; and
- Any other interested organisation/person that the proposer thinks appropriate
There is a presumption against the closure of rural schools. EIA 2006, s16(1) sets out those to be consulted.