Stevenage school lays foundations for better-funded future

Tony Fitzpatrick, Headteacher at Barnwell Middle School in Stevenage

Tony Fitzpatrick, Headteacher at Barnwell Middle School in Stevenage - Credit: Archant

A Stevenage secondary school will be able to secure crucial new funding for its students if it adopts ‘foundation’ status in September.

Barnwell School in Shephall has unveiled its plans to consult on becoming a foundation school today, and if parents and governors get behind the plan, it will become the second mainstream school of its kind in the town from September 1 – The Nobel School has already announced it will adopt foundation status on the same date.

But Herts County Council’s cabinet member for education, Councillor David Williams, says that although other schools may soon follow suit, all will eventually have to become academies – despite a recent U-turn in government policy.

Barnwell head Tony Fitzpatrick, who also chairs the Stevenage Education Trust schools partnership, says foundation status will mean the school can apply for more funding that it would not be eligible for under local authority control.

“Our options were to do nothing or to do something and the one thing we can do is to become a foundation school,” he said. “We’re very keen to be able to make more resources available to our students and to be able to provide them with better facilities and equipment, and foundation status means we can apply for more sources of funding.

“We can also take ownership of the buildings and the fabric of the school and it gives us a bit more independence in decision making.”

Explaining why the school has not decided to become an academy, he said the school wishes to continue its ‘great relationship’ with Herts County Council and it is not yet clear what organisations might support the school as an academy.

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He added that recent government uncertainty over academy status has not helped. A white paper published by the education department last month said all schools should start converting to academies by the end of 2020, and complete by 2022, but the government has since said it will not yet pass laws to force that through.

Mr Williams says there will still be support for schools that don’t become academies immediately through the education authority and Herts for Learning. Foundation status was an important first step, he said, but all schools in the area will eventually become academies.