A GOVERNING body's decision to close a half empty Chester high school has been declared void - sparking fresh hope the secondary could be saved.
It emerged yesterday that a fundamental legal mistake was made by governors when they took part in a vote to decide the fate of Kingsway High School in Newton.
Their vote in favour of a Cheshire County Council public consultation to close the school failed to meet 'all legal requirements'.
The error was caused by one governor taking part in last month's vote although his term of office expired last December, making the entire vote void.
Governors have apologised for the error and asked Cheshire's local education authority (LEA) to suspend the consultation on closure of the school.
A second vote will take place in two weeks time. However, a similar result in favour of closure consultation may not be that simple.
The initial ballot to decide on closure was only won by just one vote with eight governors backing closure and seven against - including chair of governors Kath Lloyd.
Three governors did not take part and their stance is crucial if any campaign to save the school is to be won.
The legal error also forces the second vote out into the open - unlike the first which was kept secret until the result was announced.
The series of high profile campaigns and protests by students may also help to sway the second vote in the school's favour.
Although ultimate power to close a school rests with the LEA, any decision to close Kingsway against the wishes of governors could cause an outcry.
Since the first vote, former Kingsway deputy head Richard Hedge has been coopted onto the governing body and his views against closure may help to sway fellow governors.
Mr Hedge, who has two daughters at Kingsway, organised a meeting at the school on Monday which was attended by more than 250 parents.
Cheshire LEA says Kingsway is the victim of falling birthrate, with 239 surplus places and just 525 pupils on roll - the number seeking admission has almost halved in a year from 79 to 44.
In a statement yesterday, governors said: 'The vote to ask the LEA to consider moving towards consultation about Kingsway has to be re-taken, due to procedural errors.' Chairman of governors Kath Lloyd said: 'After taking legal advice, the governing body has decided to hold another meeting in the near future. In the meantime, we have requested that the LEA suspend any decisions.
'The error was an honest and unwitting one and everyone involved deeply regrets the uncertainty caused by it.'
Cheshire's education director David Cracknell said: 'In response to the governing body informing us of this development, further consultation with elected members will now take place.'
Governors have requested that the LEA consider conducting an area review of secondary education in the city ahead of any moves to close the school.
The news will be welcomed by Chester MP Christine Russell who feels Cheshire should follow the example of other LEAs and 'collaborate' to keep the school open.
She says Mr Cracknell should examine creating a structure that would enable the management of next-door Upton High - which has more than 1,000 pupils - to take control of Kingsway as well.
'The stronger school should be encouraged to forge a collaborative partnership arrangement with the weaker school,' she said.