- High Court dismisses challenge to Somerset County Council’s decision to re-organise schools (R(WC) v Somerset County Council)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- The decision
- Circumstances leading to the decision
- Procedure preceding the decision
- What did the court decide?
- Duty to consult
- Presumption against closure of rural schools
- Indirect discrimination
- Article 14 ECHR
- Case details
Local Government analysis: This case involved a challenge by two schoolchildren (with their mothers acting as litigation friends) to Somerset County Council’s (‘SCC’) decision to approve a statutory proposal to re-organise schools in its area under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (EIA 2006). The decision would have the effect of replacing the existing three-tier structure with a two-tier structure of primary and secondary schools, and closing or merging the claimants’ schools. The claimants challenged the decision on various public law grounds, including irrationality, failure to consult, unlawfully predetermining the outcome, failure to take into account the presumption against closure of rural schools, indirect discrimination, failure to apply the public sector equality duty, and breach of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Article 14 and 8, 9 and Article 1 of Protocol 2). Permission was granted on all grounds. However, the judge dismissed each ground and found that SCC had not erred in its decision to approve the proposals. The judge provided helpful guidance on local authorities’ duties to consult, and particularly when fairness will require consultation of alternative options post-Moseley (R (Moseley) v Haringey London Borough Council), as well as helpful analyses of the law on the remaining grounds. Written by Anna Dannreuther, barrister at Field Court Chambers.
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