Teachers to take further strike action over Stevenage school takeover plans

PUBLISHED: 08:29 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:42 15 January 2019

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 Brown

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 Brown

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Teachers will take strike action for a second time over the imminent takeover of a school by an academy trust.

Staff at Stevenage’s Barclay School who are members of the National Education Union will strike tomorrow (Wednesday) over plans to transfer the school to Future Academies Trust on February 1, having previously taken strike action in December.

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 the school had made significant improvement and progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good.

Teachers and parents are worried there could be unnecessary changes to the curriculum, school structure and systems.

More than 2,500 people have signed a petition on change.org calling for Barclay to be kept under local authority control.

Paul McLaughlin, regional secretary for the eastern region of the NEU, said: “Members are standing up for the school and the community as they do not want to see it becoming another failed academy or vanity project.

“The school is improving and should be left to continue its upward path with the current staff, leadership, board of governors and support of the local authority.

“We have called on the Secretary of State to rescind this academy order as it is not in the best interests of staff, pupils or the wider community.”

Barclay’s NEU rep, Jill Borcherds, added: “The Stevenage motto ‘The heart of a town lies in its people’ was devised in 1957 by Richard Ingell, a student at Barclay. This is being demonstrated loud and clear by the Hands Off Barclay parent campaigners.

“It is again, with great reluctance, that NEU members at Barclay take strike action.

“We still have no responses from Future Academies to the concerns and queries about this forced academisation that we first raised over six months ago.”

Jane Baumeister, from the Hands Off Barclay campaign group, said: “As parents of pupils we have had no consultation from Future Academies and have grave concerns regarding the future of our children’s education.

“We are fully supportive of the action the teachers have been forced to take.”

A Future Academies spokesman said: “Future Academies met with the governing body on September 19 to discuss the trust’s plans for sponsorship and answer the questions of the governing body and staff.

“The trust requested a meeting with staff and parents in the same week. This request was declined by the governing body.

“Following the governing body meeting, Future Academies were asked not to engage with the school further, pending discussions between the governing body and Department for Education.

“As was made clear at the meeting with the governing body, 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.”

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