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Sandy Upper School in chaos over last minute takeover

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: July 20, 2013

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UPPER school students have been told that they must drop GCSE options next year despite having already completed half of the course.

This is just one of the bombshells dropped onto parents and students of Sandy Upper School by the Barnfield Federation who will be taking over the running of the school from September. Only a week ago students were told that they would have to reduce their options in order for them to concentrate on English, Maths and Sciences.

Instead of five options they will now only be able to study four. With only a few days left of the school year more than 200 year 10 students have been asked to come into the school on September 5, the day before the new term starts, to discuss what they will be doing in the next year.

A local teacher said: “Dropping a factory curriculum onto a school cannot be good thing. It is all about performance tables and not doing what’s best for the children.”

The students held a sit in in the school canteen this week to protest about the decision and more than 200 angry parents attended a meeting on Wednesday to try and get some answers as to why they have been presented with these decisions without any proper communication or consultation.

A parent of a year 10 student at the school Sandra Stratford said: “The situation is chaotic. As a parent I was told about these changes by my son not by the school. We have had no proper communication from the school or the federation and we can’t get any answers to our questions. The interim head teacher Ursula Byrne did her best to answer our questions at the meeting but she didn’t seem to know what was going to happen either. When we asked what was to become of the work that our children had already done for a GCSE that they wouldn’t complete she said that no learning was ever wasted. Unfortunately most of the parents and students don’t see it that way.

‘No one from the Barnfield Federation came to the meeting so we couldn’t ask them. We know they were meeting teachers at the school on Friday but parents weren’t allowed to attend and students were sent home early so that they wouldn’t be on the premises either.”

The Barnfield Federation is responsible for Barnfield College in Luton and a number of academies. It was founded by Peter Birkett who was knighted in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to further education and the academy movement, he left the organisation this week. A school governor confirmed that plans to change the name of the school to the Sir Peter Birkett Academy had been considered but had now been shelved. The school will now be called the Barnfield Sandy Academy.

Parents have also been told that the school will have a new uniform from next term, the third in just over a year. Sandra said: “The school is funding the uniform but we think that parents will still have to buy some of the items. I received a text this week asking me to supply my son’s chest, waist and inside leg measurement but other than that we have had no list or information so have no idea what is going on.

Sandy Upper School was put into special measures earlier this year after it was branded ‘inadequate’ by inspectors.

A governor of the school and Barnfield Federation Peter Blaine defended the decision but agreed that there has been a last minute rush. He said: “Parents were aware that we were looking for a sponsor to allow us to become an academy. The Secretary of State has only just signed off the agreement to allow them to proceed. When a school is placed in special measures parents are not consulted on its future. It was the opinion of the Barnfield Federation Team and the interim head that change was necessary and events have moved at a considerable speed.”

In a letter sent to parents on 17th July the new principal Ms Hare said that she would be seeking nothing less than a total transformation of learning and teaching and a truly innovative approach to education in the 21st century. She went on to add that ‘Parental Partnerships’ will form a key part in moving the new school forward.

A parent said: “If parental input is so important then why is it that the communication has been so dreadful, it’s not a very positive start.”

Many parents have been commenting on a Sandy School Facebook page but posts criticising the situation are being immediately deleted by the administrators.

A joint statement from Barnfield Executive Directors Stephen Hall and Helen Mayhew read: “We would like to reassure all students, parents and staff that we are doing all we can to make the transition to become a Barnfield Academy as smooth as possible and apologise to all involved for any uncertainty that has been created to date. We will be writing to parents and holding consultation events over the coming months to ensure that going forward all issues highlighted are addressed.”

Sandy Upper School will officially become an academy on November 1.

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