Barclay campaigners to march in protest against forced academy takeover

PUBLISHED: 14:02 24 January 2019

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School were joined by students when they went on strike last week. Three further days of industrial action ends today. Picture: Joshua Bennett Lovell

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School were joined by students when they went on strike last week. Three further days of industrial action ends today. Picture: Joshua Bennett Lovell

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Campaigners protesting against the forced takeover of a secondary school by an academy trust will march through the streets of Stevenage on Saturday.

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike last Wednesday, and did the sameon Tuesday through to today in opposition to an academy takeover. Picture: Jo SutherlandStaff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike last Wednesday, and did the sameon Tuesday through to today in opposition to an academy takeover. Picture: Jo Sutherland

Time is rapidly running out for staff and parents desperate to put a stop to the town’s Barclay School being taken over by Future Academies Trust on February 1.

They will gather outside the Walkern Road school at 10am on Saturday to march in protest of the plans, before a rally in Town Square at 12 noon.

It follows a three-day strike by Barclay staff who are members of the National Education Union, which ends today and comes on the back of industrial action last Wednesday – following initial strike action in December.

The forced move to academy status has come about because Barclay was rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2016. But an Ofsted inspection in April 2018 found it had progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good. Teachers and parents are worried there may be needless changes to the curriculum, school structure and systems.

Hands Off Barclay campaigners will march on Saturday in opposition to the academy takeover.. Picture: Angela MooreHands Off Barclay campaigners will march on Saturday in opposition to the academy takeover.. Picture: Angela Moore

More than 2,900 people have signed a petition calling for Barclay to be kept under local authority control, with parents launching a Hands Off Barclay campaign group.

Barclay teacher Jill Borcherds, an NEU rep, said: “It is with great regret NEU members at Barclay found themselves taking further strike action.

“We asked for a delay to the transfer date to allow proper negotiations, but they refused.

“We are very grateful for support from parents and teachers throughout Hertfordshire and beyond – we will remain together as part of a Barclay family whatever changes lie ahead.”

Members of the Stevenage community packed out Bunyan Baptist Church on January 9 for a Hands Off Barclay public meeting. Picture: Eddie HornbyMembers of the Stevenage community packed out Bunyan Baptist Church on January 9 for a Hands Off Barclay public meeting. Picture: Eddie Hornby

Paul McLaughlin, NEU’s regional secretary for the eastern region, said: “Hertfordshire County Council and Future Academies Trust are behaving in a cavalier and harmful manner. We have shown that we are prepared to negotiate however they have not.

“The community of Stevenage, the staff and parents of The Barclay School have raised legitimate concerns about this transfer, those concerns have been dismissed.

“We never want to see pupils out of school – even now we call on Hertfordshire County Council to agree a reasonable timeframe to allow for our concerns to be resolved.”

In response, a Hertfordshire County Council spokeswoman said: “This is a matter for the regional schools commissioner and not a decision in which the local authority was involved.

“For that reason it would not be appropriate to comment.”

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, is also backing the campaign. She said: “I’m sending my full solidarity to the parents, pupils and staff who are coming together to defend a vital resource for their community.

“Thousands have told the Education Secretary Damian Hinds they want Barclay to be locally-rooted and accountable, yet he has refused to even answer their petition.

“There is no evidence to suggest turning the school into an academy will improve standards, or empower teachers and parents.

“Instead of imposing this on a community that doesn’t want it, Damian Hinds should start working with parents, staff and councillors to support the school.

“Parents want Barclay to carry on the great improvements already made, but their voice is being ignored in a system that allows politicians in Whitehall to ride roughshod over the wishes of local communities.”

The academy trust has yet to respond to the Comet’s request for comment.

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