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Administrative Court rules on the status of city technology colleges for the first time

DATE: 03 Aug 2017

City technology colleges were the forerunners to academy schools, first introduced by the Education Reform Act 1988. The status of such colleges were recently considered in LH v The BRIT School, a judicial review challenge brought by a student against a decision to withdraw his sixth form place.

CTCs were to focus on a particular area, and in the case of the BRIT School, there was to be a focus on the performing arts. The BRIT School is the only remaining city technology college of the arts.

Following the Education Act 2002, CTCs had the option of converting to the (then new) status of “academy”, and many CTCs did so although the BRIT School was one of a few which chose not to. Since the Academies Act 2010, it is no longer possible to set up a CTC.

Maintained schools and academies must comply with the Admissions Code (a statutory code issued by the Secretary of State) when making admissions offers. By paragraph 2.12 of the Admissions Code, a school is prevented from withdrawing a place once an offer is made.

LH was offered a sixth form place at the BRIT School in November 2016. Soon after, he was caught smoking cannabis on the school site. The school decided against exclusion, but withdrew his offer of a sixth form place. Following this, LH’s parents had a meeting with the Principal and wrote to the Chair of Governors.

In a judicial review challenge to the withdrawal, it was argued on behalf of LH that there was no right to review or reconsideration of the decision. Therefore, the school should apply the Admissions Code by analogy as if it did not, LH was in an anomalous position compared to equivalent students in other schools. Further, he was in an anomalous position compared to a student at BRIT School who had either been excluded or was refused admission, in both situations there being an appeal right. There were also more specific arguments on the school’s Admissions and Behaviour Policies.

His Honour Judge Dight (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) held that the School was entitled to withdraw the sixth form place. The school was unique, existing under a different statutory regime to other schools, and had no statutory or contractual duty to comply with the Admissions Code. The judge further held that the process, as a whole, was fair. The judge also commented that school policies should not be read as a statute.

The judgment was ex tempore, but a link to the Lawtel summary is available here.

Leon Glenister appeared for the Claimant, instructed by Dan Rosenberg of Simpson Millar.