Crowds gather for protest march against academy takeover of Stevenage school

PUBLISHED: 12:36 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:36 28 January 2019

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

People campaigning against the forced takeover of a Stevenage school by an academy trust took part in a protest march on Saturday, before attending a rally.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Barclay School is being taken over by Future Academies on Friday, but parents and staff against the move are hoping for an 11th hour reprieve.

Protesters gathered at the Walkern Road school for a march, before a rally in Town Square.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The academy move is because Barclay was rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2016. But in April 2018 Ofsted found it had progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good. There are concerns there may be needless changes to the curriculum, school structure and systems.

Campaigner Peter Hawkins said: “I think the decision is wrong for my children and all the children at the school. As a parent I’m deeply concerned about what the future holds. We need to work with a partner and not have a dictatorship come in.”

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Barclay teacher Jill Borcherds, a National Education Union rep, said: “We marched with our heads held high. We will continue to have our heads held high. The Barclay family will stick together.

“Uncertainty has been the biggest issue – lack of communication, questions asked and going unanswered.”

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Year 9 student Katie Nash said: “The school has gone from strength to strength. The senior leadership team, teachers and support staff are kind, helpful and very encouraging and it feels like one big family. Allow the school to continue its journey.”

More than 2,900 people have signed a petition calling for Barclay to remain within local authority control, and staff who are NEU members have taken strike action on three occasions.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

High profile figures including Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and professional golfer Ian Poulter – a former Barclay pupil – are supporting the Hands Off Barclay campaign.

Herts County Council said it is a matter for the regional schools’ commissioner and is not involved in the decision.

Future Academies has previously said it met with Barclay’s governing body in September and was asked not to engage with the school further.

A spokesman said: “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.”

To watch a Facebook Live post of the rally visit the Comet’s Facebook page.

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