Charity Commission allows school merger in face of objections

Two Lancashire schools will combine despite 120 complaints from parents

King Edward VII and Queen Mary school
King Edward VII and Queen Mary school

The Charity Commission has allowed two charitable independent schools to merge despite 120 objections from parents.

The regulator has published a final decision report, which says it was approached by the Lytham Schools, a charity that provides education in or near Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire.

It runs the King Edward VII and Queen Mary schools and leases land to several others. The charity had asked the commission to allow it to change its objects, known as a scheme, so it could merge with nearby Blackpool's Arnold School, run by the United Church Schools Trust. The UCST would then run a new school on the existing King Edward VII and Queen Mary School site.

The scheme would allow the restricted assets of the schools and an associated prize fund to be combined into a new charity, the Lytham Schools Foundation, with a corporate trustee. The foundation would hold the lease on the grounds of the new school and on several existing primary schools, and would continue to give bursaries to pupils at the new school.

Objections from parents to the proposal included complaints that an alternative business plan put forward by parents had not been properly considered.

They also said that the proportion of pupils receiving free or partially funded places would fall from a third to a tenth, that the school would no longer be required to have a Christian ethos and that the scheme did not require the foundation to lease land for use as a school.

The report says the commission allowed the scheme with some changes under "cy-pres" rules laid out in the Charities Act 1993, meaning that the new objects of the charity should remain as near to the original as possible.

It made several changes to the draft scheme: the education will have to be carried out according to the Christian faith and the foundation will have to lease land to schools.

The commission report says most of the representations opposing the merger said it should not take place because the school remained viable and beneficiaries would suffer from the disruption, lack of facilities and change of ethos caused by a merger.

But the report says the measure of whether a "cy-pres" scheme should go ahead was not whether the school could survive, but whether its future would be stronger. It said it believed a merger was the school’s best chance to continue to be viable.

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