R & Ors, R (on the application of) v Leeds City Council (Education Leeds), Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, November 11, 2005, [2005] EWHC 2495 (Admin)

Resolution Date:November 11, 2005
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:R & Ors, R (on the application of) v Leeds City Council (Education Leeds)
 
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Case No: CO/2004/2005Neutral Citation Number: [2005] EWHC 2495 (Admin)IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICEQUEEN'S BENCH DIVISIONADMINISTRATIVE COURTRoyal Courts of JusticeStrand, London, WC2A 2LLFriday, 11 November 2005Before :MR JUSTICE WILKIE- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Between :- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -(Transcript of the Handed Down Judgment ofSmith Bernal Wordwave Limited, 190 Fleet StreetLondon EC4A 2AGTel No: 020 7404 1400, Fax No: 020 7831 8838Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Simon MYERSON QC and Elizabeth DARLINGTON (instructed by Godloves Solicitors) for the ClaimantThomas LINDEN (instructed by Legal Services Leeds City Council) for the Defendant- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -JudgementMr Justice Wilkie:1. This is an application for judicial review by nine claimants, each suing through their respective litigation friends, of decisions taken by the defendant on 29 September 2004 and confirmed on 4 January 2005. The decisions were to decline to provide free school transport for each of the claimants for the purpose of facilitating the attendance of the claimants at their present schools. The claimants each live within the area of Leeds City Council. They presently attend schools in Manchester including the King David High School, a school within the maintained sector, and the Manchester Jewish Grammar School a school whose status is in dispute between the parties but upon which I do not have to make any finding .2. The arrangements presently being made by the parents of the claimants for their transport to and from school constitute the private hiring of a mini bus. The annual cost is said to be £20,500, but is said by one of the litigation friends, Stanley Morris, in his evidence, to be estimated for the next educational year at £54,000.3. The grounds given by the defendant for its decision are stated in its letter of 29 September 2004 to be as follows:``Having given consideration to the matter, however, education Leeds does not consider that it is appropriate to provide free school transport given the distances involved, the cost and that there are alternatives in Allerton High School, which offers Hebrew studies adapted to the demands of the jewish community, and all Leeds High Schools which offer the national curriculum.'' This decision was taken purportedly pursuant to section 509 of the Education Act 1996. The claimants say that this decision is unlawful as being ``Wednesbury unreasonable'' and, furthermore, is contrary to Articles 8, 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 2 of protocol 1 to that convention. It is also said to be contrary to section 17 of the Race Relations Act 1976 alternatively section 18 of that Act. 4. The claimants and their families are each members of the Jewish community living in Leeds. Their parents wish them to attend a school in which the religious education provided is that of the Jewish religion to which they adhere. Their parents wish them to attend such a school for reasons which are set out in summary in paragraphs 13.1 to 13.3 of the Claimants' skeleton argument, which summarises their evidence in this respect. In particular the witness statement of Yehuda Refson the Av Beth Din of Leeds, who has made a witness statement on behalf of the claimants says, amongst other things, as follows:``I am a Dayan that is the title given to a Rabbi who is also a recognised authority on the interpretation of Jewish law (Halacha) and who acts as a judge rather than primarily as a minister. In my role as Dayan I am the Av Beth Din (father of the Beth Din) of Leeds. In other words I am the senior judge in matters that come before the Leeds Beth Din and I am the decisor of Halachic matters which affect the entire community. I am not attached to a specific synagogue - my responsibility is for the orthodox community of Leeds.In communal matters there is a consensus that my ruling will be abided by...I cannot rule, as a matter of Jewish law, that these children should attend a Jewish school in Manchester. Nevertheless, when I am asked for my advice I take the view that, if it is possible for the parent concerned to send their child to an orthodox Jewish school, then they should do so. I want to explain why that is in detail, but the answer is threefold. Firstly ensuring that one's children remain within the faith and committed to it is a basic religious obligation. Secondly committed practising Jews tend top be good citizens. Thirdly the first two propositions are best served by a Jewish education... ''In succeeding paragraphs he explains these matters in some detail. He then goes on:``10. This is a significant issue for the Jewish community in Leeds. There is no Jewish high school in Leeds provided by the city council, as there is in Manchester, so that state education has to be secular from age 11 if the child stays in Leeds. A number of years ago Education Leeds promised a Jewish studies centre at Allerton High School, the local state school that most children of the community attend. In due course that centre became a multi cultural centre. Consequently those parents most committed to the idea of Jewish education have for some years been arranging the transport of their children to Manchester at their own expense. It is important to stress that this is by no means the most desirable option, because the school day is very much lengthened. Over the last 5 years or so a number of families have moved from Leeds to Manchester simply to avoid being in the position of these parents. I know that the parents who have opted for Manchester have done so after only the most careful consideration and discussion. I know that some of them of modest means find the financial commitment extremely difficult and that it represents a considerable sacrifice....13. I stress again that I would not impose upon the parents (all of whose statements I have read) a religious requirement to educate their children at a Jewish school. But I would certainly advise it, if everything else were in place. It is, in my opinion, in the best interests of the community I serve and of the individuals who consult me. It is education in conformance of the laws of the land and with religious obligation. It is also, I agree, in the best interests of the children.''5. As of January 2005 Leeds City Council was responsible for the education of 55,880 pupils aged 4 - 11 who attend mainstream primary schools within Leeds and 42,492 aged 11 - 16 who attend mainstream secondary schools in Leeds. These figures include pupils resident outside the Leeds administrative area boundary who attend schools in Leeds, but do not include children who are resident within Leeds yet attend schools in neighbouring local educational authorities. 6. At present there are 230 mainstream state primary schools within Leeds of which 29 are Catholic voluntary aided, 19 are Church of England voluntary aided and 1 is Jewish voluntary aided. There are no other primary faith schools in the maintained sector in Leeds. In the academic year 2004 to 2005 Education Leeds provided free home to school transport to 153 mainstream primary aged pupils permanently resident within the Leeds administrative boundary. Of these, 125 were attending church schools. Free transport was provided to only 2 pupils attending a school outside the administrative area, to a catholic school in Ilkley which the Catholic Diocese had designated as the nearest catholic school to where children live. This school is 4.7 miles from the Leeds city border. 7. There are 42 state funded mainstream secondary schools within the Leeds administrative area. These include 2 Church of England voluntary aided schools and 5 voluntary aided Catholic schools. Certain districts are closer to schools that lie within the jurisdiction of the neighbouring authorities of North Yorkshire, Kirklees Bradford and Wakefield. In the academic year 2004 to 2005, Education Leeds provided free home to school transport to 3600 mainstream secondary pupils aged 11 - 16 who were permanently resident within the Leeds administrative boundary. Of these 2,182 pupils attended either a Catholic or a Church of England school, with 541 of this number attending schools outside the Leeds boundary. These children attend schools that have been identified by the relevant diocesan authorities as being the nearest designated religious school for...

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