Fears over Stevenage school’s academy future is due to ‘silly scaremongering’, says MP

PUBLISHED: 08:27 03 January 2019

Archant

The MP for Stevenage has blamed ‘silly scaremongering’ for the concern surrounding a Stevenage secondary school becoming an academy, which has led to strike action and a sustained campaign to stop the move.

The Barclay School on Stevenage’s Walkern Road is set to become an academy from February 1, but teachers and parents are worried there could be unnecessary changes to the curriculum, school structure and systems.

Academies are publicly-funded independent schools, receiving money direct from the government and not the local county council. They are run by an academy trust which employs the staff, and they do not have to follow the national curriculum.

The Hands Off Barclay campaign – set up by parent Amanda Feagan – has amassed more than 1,600 signatures, and teachers took strike action on December 12 in a bid to stop the academisation.

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.

Joshua Bennett Lovell, Herts County Council member for Old Stevenage, said: “Despite significant parent, community and staff opposition, the Department for Education is still ploughing ahead with this reckless move, which could permanently damage the education of our community and town.

“Insufficient evidence has been provided to justify this decision, and significant staffing and curriculum changes will be imposed if the school changes hands – this has all been confirmed by numerous Freedom of Information requests put in by community campaigners.”

Stevenage MP Stephen 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, as she works at the school, and local Labour county councillor.

“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.

“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.

“My focus is on ensuring local children have a great education and we have the best schools here in Stevenage.

“Thomas Alleyne and John Henry Newman are flourishing as academies, so this is silly scaremongering for political purposes, instead of trusting the educational professionals at Ofsted and the regional schools’ commissioner.”

The Hands Off Barclay campaign is holding a public meeting to update members of the community on the situation, with the secretaries of the National Education Union and the Anti-Academies Alliance both set to speak.

The meeting will take place from 7.30pm to 9pm on Wednesday, January 9, in Stevenage Old Town’s Bunyan Baptist Church, and will be chaired by Councillor Bennett Lovell.

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