‘Stevenage school does not need to be converted into an academy’

PUBLISHED: 11:58 01 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 02 November 2018

The Barclay School in Stevenage, which could be taken over by a multi-academy trust. Picture: Barclay School

The Barclay School in Stevenage, which could be taken over by a multi-academy trust. Picture: Barclay School

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A secondary school which has been steadily improving since being placed in special measures is now facing “worrying plans” of being taken over by a multi-academy trust.

Barclay headteacher Mark Allchorn with students at the Stevenage school. Picture: Lee GillionBarclay headteacher Mark Allchorn with students at the Stevenage school. Picture: Lee Gillion

The Barclay School in Stevenage was rated inadequate by Ofsted following an inspection in July 2016 and placed in special measures.

But an Ofsted inspection in April this year found the school had made significant improvement and progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good.

However, a multi-academy trust – believed to be Future Academies, owned by former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools John Nash – is now expected to take over the running of the school from January.

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.

Herts County Council member Joshua Bennett Lovell says plans for The Barclay School in Stevenage are 'worrying'. Picture: HCCHerts County Council member Joshua Bennett Lovell says plans for The Barclay School in Stevenage are 'worrying'. Picture: HCC

Joshua Bennett Lovell, Herts county councillor for Old Stevenage, said: “The school has improved by a huge amount having now come out of special measures, showing it does not need to be converted to an academy to provide a good education to our community.

“It has been shown nationally that academisation does not improve the education of young people, and worsens the working conditions for school staff.

“Multi-academy trusts take money out of our schools and place them in private hands, and the proposed sponsor – Future Academies Trust – has a record of drastically changing school curricula, uniforms, and ethos.”

Councillor Bennett-Lovell is holding a meeting next Thursday, from 7pm to 9pm, at Springfield House on Stevenage High Street to discuss the school’s future with teachers, residents and representatives from the National Education Union and the Anti-Academies Alliance.

He said: “I’ve called this meeting to get our local community together to work out how we can put a stop to these worrying plans.”

Nicky Clarke, chair of governors at Barclay, said: “We are proud of the significant improvements that we have made since the academy order and which have been recognised by Ofsted in April 2018 and seen us moved out of ‘special measures’ with two of our categories noted as ‘good’.

“We acknowledge that further improvements are needed and are confident that our leadership team is in a good position to implement these with the support of our local community. Indeed, Ofsted felt the capacity to rapidly move to ‘good’ or better was achievable with the current team and systems.

“Regrettably, we confirm that we have for some time now raised concerns about how the decision on the choice of an academy sponsor for Barclay School has been made. We have been disappointed that our repeated requests for information, so that we could be satisfied that this was the right choice for the future of Barclay School, have not been forthcoming.

“We remain willing to work with the Department for Education and any proposed sponsors in the best interests of the school and to that end, following advice from the school’s legal advisors, we have invited all relevant parties to come to the table and engage in mediation with us to discuss the concerns we have raised.

“We are hopeful that the Department for Education will agree to our request and that we will be in a position to update you more positively in the near future. In the meantime, the school continues to go from strength to strength and we will continue to put the needs of our students first.”

The Barclay School had been originally pledged to a different sponsor – the Herts for Learning Multi Acamedy Trust – last year, but the plans fell through and Future Academies was chosen by the regional schools commissioner instead.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Future Academies has an excellent track record of school improvement, particularly at secondary level, which is why the regional schools commissioner, Martin Post, has asked the trust to sponsor The Barclay School. We are confident it will deliver the improvements that both staff and pupils deserve and ultimately provide an excellent education.”

The Comet has also contacted Future Academies for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

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