Review of the Year 2019: January

PUBLISHED: 12:02 23 December 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

The campaign against the academisation of the Barclay School in Stevenage featured heavily in the Comet in January, as parents and staff held strike action as a last attempt to stop the move.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Crowds gathered to demonstrate in the town centre against the forced takeover of the school, which was set for February 1.

More than 2,900 signed the online petition calling for Barclay to remain within local authority control, however, the academisation went ahead on the proposed date.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The academy move was because Barclay was rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2016. But in April 2018 Ofsted found it had progressed to requires improvement, with elements of good.

The school is now run by Future Academies, despite the campaign which saw hundreds come together in Janaury.

The rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOOThe rally against Barclay School academy plans marches through Stevenage Town Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Stevenage community came out in force not only to stop academisation in January, but also in response to a family's Facebook appeal to find missing Dachshund, Ernie.

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Around 40 people joined the search for Ernie, who was spooked while on a walk at Fairlands Valley Park and ran away.

Dog owners Stephen and Hannah Wells were reunited with Ernie the next day.

Stevenage dog lovers have been searching for missing Ernie after owners Stephen and Hannah Wells posted an appeal on Facebook. Picture: Mr and Mrs WellsStevenage dog lovers have been searching for missing Ernie after owners Stephen and Hannah Wells posted an appeal on Facebook. Picture: Mr and Mrs Wells

They said at the time: "We didn't realise that everyone would care so much, it was so heartwarming and overwhelming seeing everyone come together for big Ernie."

Businesses and fundraisers in Hitchin and further afield backed fundraisiing for Hitchin boy Seraph back in January, raising more than £10,000 in four days for his treatment.

Ernie had a well-deserved kip after being missing for more than 24 hours. Picture: Mr and Mrs WellsErnie had a well-deserved kip after being missing for more than 24 hours. Picture: Mr and Mrs Wells

Then four-year-old Seraph Thomas was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of paediatric cancer.

Seraph required treatment to protect him from relapse, which was not available in the UK and costs £237,000.

Big Ernie went missing from Fairlands Valley Park on Friday morning. Picture: Mr and Mrs WellsBig Ernie went missing from Fairlands Valley Park on Friday morning. Picture: Mr and Mrs Wells

Since the initial fundraising page was set up, the cause has been backed by many, and the family hit their fundraising target in May, enabling Seraph to head for New York for his treatment.

At the time, Seraph's mum Cassia said: "This town is special. We knew it as soon as we came here. We just didn't know how special. "We will never forget what this extraordinary community has done for us."

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