Barclay staff opposing academy takeover to strike for three days

PUBLISHED: 17:36 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 22 January 2019

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike last Wednesday, and are set to do the same tomorrow through to Thursday in opposition to an academy takeover. Picture: Jo Sutherland

Staff from Stevenage's The Barclay School went on strike last Wednesday, and are set to do the same tomorrow through to Thursday in opposition to an academy takeover. Picture: Jo Sutherland

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Barclay School staff who are members of the National Education Union are set to strike for three days this week in opposition to the planned takeover of the Stevenage school by an academy trust.

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

Strike action will begin tomorrow and continue until Thursday, as the February 1 takeover of the Walkern Road school by Future Academies Trust moves ever closer.

The NEU and other unions met with management from Hertfordshire County Council on Thursday together with representatives of FAT, pressing for a reasonable timeframe to allow for talks to take place aimed at resolving the ongoing dispute.

The union offered to suspend the action plan for this week if a timetable could be agreed, but claimed that the employer “refused to even consider this” and therefore members were left with “no option” but to carry on with their proposed action.

It comes on the back of industrial action last Wednesday, and follows an initial strike in December.

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

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.”

Barclay teacher Jill Borcherds, speaking in her role as an NEU rep, said: “It is with great regret that NEU members at Barclay find themselves taking further strike action.

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

“We asked for a delay to the February 1 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.”

In response, Herts County Council 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.”

The forced move to academy status at Barclay has come about because the school 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.

More than 2,850 people have signed a petition calling for Barclay to be kept under local authority control, with parents launching a Hands Off Barclay campaign group.

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