Petition calls for Stevenage school to stay open

A PETITION is calling for the planned closure of a secondary school in Comet country to be reversed in light of the Government’s decision to remove funding for the renovation of schools in the area.

The Heathcote School in Stevenage is due to close in August 2012 – a decision taken after the Government promised to fund the rebuilding, remodelling and relocating of other secondary schools in Stevenage, as part of a scheme called Building Schools for the Future (BSF).

The scheme was due to start in early 2011, but Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that projects at five Stevenage schools – Barclay, Barnwell, John Henry Newman, Thomas Alleyne and Greenside – have been cancelled, and a further three – Marriotts, Lonsdale and Nobel – are subject to review.

A spokesman for Heathcote staff said: “The closure of Heathcote was only considered because of the BSF proposals. Since the BSF plan for Stevenage is effectively dead, we consider the closure notice should be reversed.”

A petition has been signed by dozens of staff at the school, asking the local authority to “recognise the pointlessness of destroying a successful school in the name of a plan which no longer exists”.

Stevenage Borough Council has resolved to write to the Education Secretary raising its concerns. The council believes “transformational change to the aspirations and attainment in young people in Stevenage and elsewhere has not been recognised by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government” following “the chaotic process of the cancellation of the programme”.

The council motion, which also acknowledged that huge amounts of money spent on the programme have been wasted, has been backed by the Lib Dems, but rejected by the Conservative councillors.

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The council is also challenging the Stevenage MP, Tory Stephen McPartland, to oppose the cancellation of BSF.

The Labour leader of the council, Cllr Sharon Taylor added: “If our new MP really wants to represent local people, he will join the council in opposing the disastrous cuts to our local schools and support our children’s future.”

Mr McPartland said: “It’s very sad that while I’m working with many of the headteachers and local authorities [to improve education in Stevenage], some members of the council want to play politics.

“The education of our children is far more important than petty politics, and it’s a pity the council is passing this motion instead of trying to support me to get improvement for schools in Stevenage.”