A FAMILY in Somerset have launched a legal challenge against the approval of the schools restructure in Ilminster and Crewkerne.

Somerset County Council (SCC) announced their decision to change the three-tier education system of first, middle and upper schools, to a two-tier model of primary and secondary schools on March 17.

Under the new plans, Wadham School will become a secondary school; Maiden Beech, Ashlands, St Bartholomew’s, Merriott and Haselbury Plucknett will become primary schools; Swanmead and Greenfylde will amalgamate and become a primary school and Misterton school is set to close.

READ MORE: Schools restructure plans in Crewkerne and Ilminster approved

Families have argued Misterton should not be closed, as it provides "vital" services to the community and has strong links to the church.

Taylor Larcombe, whose six-year-old daughter attends the school, has instructed lawyers Irwin Mitchell to bring a legal challenge to the decision.

“Closing our local school is the wrong decision," said Ms Larcombe.

"The changes fail to fully take the impact on the community and our children’s education into account and will be devastating for all connected with the school.

“I feel we need scrutiny by the court of this decision, the public consultation and how far statutory guidance was followed. I question how much genuine engagement with the community there has been to date.

"I would rather work with the council to come to an agreement but feel left with no other option than to bring this legal challenge.”

The legal team has applied to the High Court to bring a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the decision and the preceding consultation process.

Rachael Smurthwaite, public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Proposals to reorganise and close schools are seldom straightforward and it’s important the concerns of communities and parents are heard and taken fully into account when these issues are being considered.

"We have identified legal grounds to bring the case before the High Court.

“In public consultations, the county council only put forward a single restructuring option which involved closing Misterton First School.

"There was no alternative put to consultees which included keeping the school open.

“My client feels strongly that the decision was therefore predetermined. In formulating these proposals, the council, failed to take proper account of the impact on children’s education and the presumption against closure of rural schools.”

Taylor’s solicitors have instructed barristers Steve Broach and Gethin Thomas, of 39 Essex Chambers, in relation to the judicial review claim.

SCC said the decision to reorganise schools was made because of a reduction in the number of pupils.

An SCC spokesperson said: “We appreciate that the reorganisation of schools within the Crewkerne and Ilminster area is an emotive subject. We encourage all parties to work together to make these changes happen as smoothly as possible for the children, their families and carers, and the school staff. This will help ensure that every child continues to receive the high quality education that they absolutely deserve.

"We can confirm we have received a set of proceedings. We do not agree with the allegations made but will respond by way of the legal process.  Information about our plans is available on our website: www.somerset.gov.uk/crewkerne-and-ilminster-strategic-school-review.”