Barclay governors to Future Academies Trust: 'You can respond to staff's questions'

PUBLISHED: 15:18 17 January 2019

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike on Wednesday over the planned takeover by the Future Academies Trust. Picture: Jo Sutherland

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike on Wednesday over the planned takeover by the Future Academies Trust. Picture: Jo Sutherland

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Barclay School’s governing body has responsed to comments from the Future Academies Trust about its planned takeover of the Stevenage school – saying the FAT “could have responded to questions from staff at any time”.

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School were joined by students when they went on strike for a second time. Picture: Joshua Bennett LovellStaff from Stevenage's The Barclay School were joined by students when they went on strike for a second time. Picture: Joshua Bennett Lovell

The academy trust explained its silence this week, claiming in a statement that it was asked not to engage with the school further after a meeting with the secondary school’s governing body back in September.

The FAT – which is set to take over the running of the school on February 1 – also said it “remained committed” to working alongside school staff to “continue and accelerate the much-needed improvement” at the Walkern Road school.

Teachers and parents are worried there could be unnecessary changes to the curriculum, school structure and systems if Barclay becomes an academy, in a move which has come about because the school was rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2016.

An Ofsted inspection in April 2018 found the school had made significant improvement and progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good, and a large swathe of parents and staff believe intervention is not required – with a Hands Off Barclay petition signed by 2,800 people so far.

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

The FAT statement, in full, read: “Future Academies met with the governing body on September 19 to discuss the trust’s plans for sponsorship and answer the questions of the governing body and staff.

“The trust requested a meeting with staff and parents in the same week. This request was declined by the governing body.

“Following the governing body meeting, Future Academies were asked not to engage with the school further, pending discussions between the governing body and Department for Education.

“As was made clear at the meeting with the governing body, Future Academies remain committed to working alongside the senior leadership team and all staff at the school to continue and accelerate the much-needed improvement for the students and families of the school.”

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

In response to the comments from an FTA spokesman, chair of governors Nicky Clarke – speaking on behalf of Barclay’s board of governors – said: “Governors did indeed meet with Future Academies Trust on September 19 to try and gain some clarity about their sponsorship proposals. Questions from governors concerned disruption to pupils, curriculum, teaching style, due diligence, behaviour policy, relationships with external partners, change of name etc.

“We did not present staff questions to FAT because these had already been sent to them previously for their attention with no response received to date.

“It was the outcomes of this meeting and the lack of any specific detail that concerned governors greatly and forced them to take immediate legal advice. Our legal team advised us to stop all communication and take our concerns straight to the Department for Education.

“The lack of response and unwillingness to discuss our concerns by the DfE has been well documented. However, FAT could have responded in writing to staff at any time, they could also have presented governors with a written plan. We still have nothing in writing from this trust and they are proposing to take the school in two weeks.

“We have surveyed our parents within the last week to ask if they wish us to continue this challenge and the result was an overwhelming 95 per cent of response saying yes.

“Today, we have sent documents to Education Secretary Damian Hinds showing the positive predictions for the school for the end of this academic year and requesting he delays this ‘forced academisation’ to allow us to present our concerns, and those of parents and staff, to him as the minister who can affect this decision. We remain optimistic that he will agree to meet with us in the spirit of openess and transparency.”

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