A multi-academy trust is taking Cornwall Council to court over a “deeply flawed” procurement decision that could force a school for children with cancer to close.
Wave Multi-Academy Trust launched the legal appeal after losing a contract to provide alternative provision for children who are unable to attend school due to medical or health needs.
CHES Academy, part of Wave, has run the service over three sites since 2007. It is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and is attended by children with cancer and serious mental ill-health.
But Special Partnership Trust (SPT), which runs five special academies, has been identified as the successful applicant for a new £14 million eight-year contract.
Wave claims that SPT “has no prior record of providing the education services required”.
But Gary Chappell, SPT director, said they “have the knowledge to deliver this crucial service at the highest level”.
However he added: “The tender is currently in its ‘standstill period’. As such it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”
Rob Gasson, Wave’s chief executive, said CHES would probably have to close because it would become financially unviable, causing “enormous anxiety” to 120 pupils and their families.
“The local authority is not only denying unwell children from across our county access to an outstanding-rated provision but effectively closing an academy – something that only the secretary of state for education, with whom we have our funding agreement, has the power to do.”
The trust is also concerned about elements of the tender process and decision. It launched an appeal in the High Court this week.
A council spokesperson said it was a “competitive tender process” with the aim of “implementing a new model that will increase capacity and support even more young people with specialist medical and health needs who are unable to attend school”.
“Cornwall Council is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education and puts the needs of children at the heart of every decision we make,” they added.
The council said it cannot comment further as an appeal had been lodged.
Earlier this year, the local government and social care ombudsman recommended the council conduct an audit of children not attending school.
The watchdog said the council did not have “enough oversight” of the process and schools must follow when a child was out of education.
Correction: This article was amended to state a successful applicant had been identified for the contract, rather than that the contract had been awarded.