Barclay School union rep and Stevenage councillor respond to 'scaremongering' comments

PUBLISHED: 14:48 03 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 03 January 2019

County councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell and NEU rep Jill Borcherds, pictured holding the banner alongside fellow Hands Off Barclay campaigners - have responded to comments made by Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland about Barclay School becoming an academy. Picture: Courtesy of Jill Borcherds

County councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell and NEU rep Jill Borcherds, pictured holding the banner alongside fellow Hands Off Barclay campaigners - have responded to comments made by Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland about Barclay School becoming an academy. Picture: Courtesy of Jill Borcherds

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Barclay School’s NEU union representative and the county councillor for the area have hit back at claims from the Stevenage MP that concern surrounding the secondary school becoming an academy is down to “silly scaremongering”.

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

Barclay School’s NEU union representative and the county councillor for the area have hit back at claims from the Stevenage MP that concern surrounding the secondary school becoming an academy is down to “silly scaremongering”.

Jill Borcherds – Barclay’s National Education Union representative – and Old Stevenage county councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell have disputed a number of comments Conservative MP Stephen McPartland made to the Comet after a February 1 date was set for the Walkern Road school to be taken over by the Future Academies Trust.

Mr McPartland said: “The academisation order was made in 2016 by the regional schools’ commissioner. This is a political campaign that started over two years later, in November 2018, by the Labour Parliamentary Candidate [Jill Borcherds], as she works at the school, and local Labour county councillor [Joshua Bennett Lovell].

“The only way to remove an academy order is for the school to get good in an Ofsted inspection, which they have sadly failed to do.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland.  Picture: Stephen McPartland's officeStevenage MP Stephen McPartland. Picture: Stephen McPartland's office

“The campaign has no real support amongst parents or staff, many of whom felt pressured to take strike action and are now looking for other jobs.”

Mr McPartland also pointed to Thomas Alleyne and John Henry Newman “flourishing as academies”, putting the concern about Barclay’s academisation down to “silly scaremongering”.

A joint statement from Mr Bennett Lovell and Mrs Borcherds – in her capacity as Barclay’s NEU rep – said: “In response to our MP’s assertion that we are acting due to ‘silly scaremongering’, we feel the need to clarify some of Stephen McPartland’s comments. It is abundantly clear from his response that he is totally unaware of the details of the situation, which should be unsurprising given that he hasn’t once met with parent campaigners or staff in the several months that this issue has been known about.

“The MP states that ‘the campaign has no real support amongst parents or staff’, contrary to the fact that there was a 96 per cent vote in favour of strike action when the NEU conducted a secret postal ballot, and that the parents who started the petition did so independently of ourselves, and have received more than 1,600 petition signatures in support.

Parents of pupils at Stevenage's Barclay School deliver the petition to the Department for Education. Picture: Jim BrownParents of pupils at Stevenage's Barclay School deliver the petition to the Department for Education. Picture: Jim Brown

“Following the announcement of Future Academies Trust being the identified sponsor, teachers and support staff prepared a list of 24 concerns and queries in June that were then sent to Future Academies Trust in September. So far, no response has been provided to staff on any of these queries, over five months after these were raised. Had Mr McPartland made any contact with staff at the school or been following the developing situation, he would have been aware of this.

“We also point you to a Freedom of Information request made to the Department for Education in November 2018 which, in paragraph two of the response, says: ‘The local MP, Stephen McPartland is very supportive of the sponsor trust. We understand Mr McPartland met the school’s senior leadership team in June to express his support and his lack of confidence in the school management.’ This is also in stark contradiction to the comments that have been made about the current school leadership team by all parents with whom we have met and engaged with, who are full of praise of the current headteacher, Mark Allchorn, and senior leadership staff.

“Further, we note that no confirmation has been provided to the school regarding the continuity of the post-16 consortium collaboration between Barclay and other Stevenage secondary schools. This should cause great alarm since the Cavendish School (now Laureate Academy) has been taken over by Future Academies Trust, such cross-school working has disappeared, and that only weeks before this official transfer of governance, the headteacher at this school announced his departure. Parents are therefore rightly concerned that the loss of current headteacher would be damaging to the consistent improvements made at the school, and are a legitimate risk with the currently planned academy sponsor.

“Mr McPartland neglects the fact that Thomas Alleyne and John Henry Newman are sponsored by different academy trusts, and therefore operate different educational models. The improvement model at Barclay is working; evident in staff and student morale, and GCSE and A-level results, therefore showing that any significant move away would put this in jeopardy.

“We repeat that Mr McPartland has yet to engage with parents and staff once since this issue was raised with him, letters having been sent to him at least as early as November 9, despite his claim this his focus is on ensuring local children have a great education here in Stevenage.

“We welcome his attendance at our open meeting on January 9 such that he can hear the concerns of his constituents first-hand. We are acting in the interest of the local community and teaching staff, and reject fully his assertion that this is ‘silly scaremongering’.

“It is our utmost belief that our actions are fully consistent with ensuring that we get the very best education for every single child in our community school.”

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