The court start date has been set for the Association of College’s first judicial review against the government in more than a decade.

The AoC revealed a month ago that it was going to take legal action over the Department for Education’s controversial decision to fund a new sixth form at Abbs Cross Academy and Arts College, in Hornchurch.

It believes that the government’s own rules were not followed when the department’s regional schools commissioner approved the request from the Loxford School Trust

These state, for example, that sixth forms should only be created in schools which expect to enrol 200 students or more.

They should also be graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, offer a full programme of at least 15 A-levels, and not impose a financial burden on the rest of the school.

When asked this week about progress with the case, an AoC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the hearing is due to start on November 1.”

The hearing is scheduled to last for one day only, and the Administrative Court venue will be announced the day before the hearing. The listings office said it is likely to be within the main Royal Courts of Justice, in London.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, previously told FE Week: “We thought long and hard about this action, recognising that the legal costs would be high.

“We will have invested over £50,000 on this process; an investment we felt was necessary at this stage because we wanted to secure clarity on such an important issue.”

Abbs Cross fell from a ‘good’ Ofsted rating to ‘inadequate’ in June 2015, and has since been subject to a number of section eight special measures monitoring inspections, one in December 2015 and the following in March this year.

The results of the third was published this month, with inspector John Lambern stating: “Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”

The review is being launched by AoC in partnership with Havering Sixth Form College, which is 1.5 miles away from Abbs Cross.

The outcome could have a bearing on the way the government approves new selective schools, and establish the status of guidance to the regional schools commissioners.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are aware of the judicial review. It would not be appropriate to comment while proceedings are ongoing.”

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