Big turnout for Hands Off Barclay meeting over forced academisation

PUBLISHED: 14:06 11 January 2019

Members of the Stevenage community packed out Bunyan Baptist Church for a Hands Off Barclay public meeting. Picture: Eddie Hornby

Members of the Stevenage community packed out Bunyan Baptist Church for a Hands Off Barclay public meeting. Picture: Eddie Hornby

Archant

Stevenage’s Bunyan Baptist Church was packed out on Wednesday night as the community met to discuss The Barclay School’s impending academisation.

Barclay School teachers took strike action in December, and were joined by parents, sixth-formers, local NEU representative Jill Borcherds and other members of the community. Picture: Jim BrownBarclay School teachers took strike action in December, and were joined by parents, sixth-formers, local NEU representative Jill Borcherds and other members of the community. Picture: Jim Brown

More than 200 people – including Barclay staff, students, parents and the wider community – listened to representatives from the National Education Union and Anti-Academies Alliance speak about the Stevenage school’s forced academisation, which is set to see it be taken over by the Future Academies Trust on February 1.

They were joined by passionate and personal statements from pupils, parents and staff, who have been supporting a ‘Hands Off Barclay’ campaign.

Concerns were raised over the proposed transfer of the Walkern Road school to the control of Future Academies Trust, including the academy trust’s lack of communication with the school and the community, the uncertainty facing the students of the school and the derailing of the progress made by the school under the current leadership team.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland did not attend the meeting, much to the disappointment of campaigners.

Hands Off Barclay campaigners making their voices heard outside the Stevenage school. Picture: Courtesy of Jill BorcherdsHands Off Barclay campaigners making their voices heard outside the Stevenage school. Picture: Courtesy of Jill Borcherds

Parent Jane Baumeister, who also spoke on the meeting’s panel, said: “We believe that this campaign needs to be recognised by the regional schools commissioner, Martin Post, Secretary of State for Education Damien Hinds and MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland.

“These are the people who are supposed to be supporting the education of our children, but it appears only when it’s on their terms. They do not appear to be interested in whether the decision made by them regarding sponsorship of the school is in the best interest of pupils, staff or parents.

“Campaigners, including dozens more who joined our Hands Off Barclay campaign group on Wednesday, are getting together this evening, Friday, to work out our next campaign steps. We won’t let our school be taken off us without a fight.”

The forced move to academy status at Barclay has come about because the school was rated inadequate by Ofsted following an inspection in July 2016 and placed in special measures.

But an Ofsted inspection in April 2018 found the school had made significant improvement and progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good.

In a previous statement to the Comet, Mr McPartland said that the only way to remove an academy order is for the school to get good in an Ofsted inspection, claiming that opposition to the academy takeover was a “political campaign”.

He also said: “Thomas Alleyne and John Henry Newman are flourishing as academies, so this is silly scaremongering for political purposes.”

In response, Hands Off Barclay has said: “For Mr McPartland’s information, ‘Hands Off Barclay’ is a parents campaign supported by the school, the school’s staff and our local councillor. Our campaign is non-political but directly against the forced takeover by Future Academies.

“As parents we have witnessed The Barclay School’s turnaround in the last two years and have confidence in the current head and leadership team. We believe that they are striving hard to improve the school in all areas and are working with the governing body in the best interests of our children.

“In contradiction to what Mr McPartland states, the vast majority of parents and the local community are full of praise for the head and teachers – evidenced by more than 1,850 signatures on our petition. Unfortunately, our MP underestimates the level of support there is for the professional ability of The Barclay School staff. What is detrimental to the school and its pupils is the uncertainty, lack of consultation and proposed forced change.

“The school’s original academy sponsor, Herts For Learning, was not opposed two years ago because they worked with the school and its stakeholders. However, Herts For Learning was withdrawn as the sponsor at the last minute without any explanation. Future Academies, the regional schools commissioner (who allocates sponsors) and Mr McPartland have so far refused to consult with the school, the staff, the governors or the parents.

“Future Academies lack accountability and transparency. It was founded by then Conservative minister Lord Nash who runs the organisation with his wife. They chair each school’s governing body, the management board, the finance and audit committee, the trust and the sponsor. They have appointed their daughter to teach and be head of curriculum although she is not a qualified teacher. They also appointed an unqualified teacher as a school head. Consequently, we are left to fear the worst and believe that Future Academies have only their interests at heart and not that of our children.”

To view or sign Hands Off Barclay’s petition, see change.org/p/the-department-for-education-hands-off-barclay-remove-the-academy-order-from-the-barclay-school.

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