Stevenage Borough Council call for response to Hands Off Barclay petition as school becomes an academy

PUBLISHED: 16:56 01 February 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

Stevenage Borough Council voted unanimously to support the call on the Secretary of State for Education to respond to the Barclay School petition against its academisation.

Barclay School was taken over by the Future Academies Trust today, after it was rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2016.

Since this report, the school has progressed to ‘requires improvement’, with elements of good, according to its April 2018 report.

At a full council meeting on Thursday night, a motion was passed asking for MP Damian Hinds to give answers to those who signed the petition.

Council leader Sharon Taylor tweeted, saying: “The #HandsOffBarclay resolution passed the Stevenage Council meeting last night has been couriered to the Department for Education this morning for the urgent attention of @DamianHinds. Not a single Stevenage councillor voted against this, so please listen!”

Old Town ward councillor Jim Brown proposed the motion at the meeting, calling on Mr Hinds to rescind the academy order.

“This is not academisation by choice,” he said.

“This is forced academisation, with the school and the community given no choice about who will take over.

“There is no evidence, locally or nationally, that academisation improves performance or outcomes for and the wellbeing of young people.

“All schools should be good community schools working together to improve the life chances of our young people.

“As Barclay is improving, the Secretary of State has the power to rescind the academy order as has already been done in 18 other cases. He should do that right now.”

Old Stevenage councillor Joshua Bennett-Lovell – who has attended staff strikes and supported the Hands Off Barclay campaign – expressed his disappointment at Mr Hinds lack of acknowledgment.

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Bennett-Lovell said: “We marched, rallied, teachers took five days of strike action, multiple public meetings were held, national press covered the story, Hands Off Barclay made it into the local paper every week for the past two months.

“Hundreds of letters sent to the MP and Schools Commissioner, and over 2,900 people demanded that the Secretary of State rescind the order on a petition, 1,500 of which were delivered by hand to Damian Hinds himself, all since November.

“No acknowledgement to the petition. Freedom of Information requests blocked. Staff forcibly moved onto new contracts. The shady nature of the decision, locked in a cabinet somewhere in the Department for Education, away from public scrutiny.”

He continued by calling for the school’s community to stay strong.

“What is important now is that the Barclay community remains strong and sticks together throughout the next period where significant changes to our school will be attempted, as have been attempted in all other places where FAT have taken over.

“Parents and staff have shown how effective and powerful they are when working towards a common goal, a lesson that cannot be lost.”

National Education Union, who have been backing the Hands Off Barclay campaign described the takeover as a “sad day”.

NEU regional secretary, Paul McLaughlin told the Comet: “It is a very sad day today, as local democracy and accountability has been lost due to the forced transfer of The Barclay School to Future Academies Trust.

“This case highlights a dysfunctional system where schools can be forcibly removed from communities at the behest of non-accountable political appointees.

“The school no longer belongs to the Stevenage community however the campaign to ensure that the pupils receive a great education continues and our members will work with the new employer to achieve that.”

Following their takeover today, a spokesman from Future Academies Trust said: “We are delighted to have welcomed Barclay Academy to our family of schools on February 1.

“We look forward to working alongside the senior leadership team and all staff at Barclay Academy to continue and accelerate the much-needed improvement in the quality of education for all students and to lead the school to outstanding.”

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