Petition to block Steyning Grammar School academisation passes 360 signatures as decision looms

A petition opposing the academisation of Steyning Grammar School has gained more than 360 signatures with a decision imminent on the school’s future.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 4:34 pm

Governors were set to meet today (March 11) to decide whether the school should join Worthing’s Bohunt Education Trust academy.

The plans have been opposed by the National Education Union, which represents the majority of the teachers at the school, and a petition set up in February has already attracted 364 signatures.

The NEU’s regional officer, James Ellis, raised concerns over the transparency of the consultation process, also due to end today, and worried the governors would not hear the full range of views.

SH 210714 Steyning Grammar School reunion. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140721-094913001

“Parents have said that their letters have gone into a ‘black hole’, receiving no response at all from governors,” he said.

“Our union submitted its own response on the evening of 10th March and received an automated reply that the consultation had closed. Governors said that the consultation would close on March 11 when it began.

“In addition, we requested copies of governors meeting minutes in January, which should be public documents, and even submitted a freedom of information request to obtain them but we are still to receive these.”

Opposing parents and teachers have argued joining the Bohunt trust would not provide any additional funding compared to current local authority levels.

It would be ‘irresponsible’ to risk the school’s 400-year history, they argued, by joining the academy and taking autonomy away from parents.

Fears have also been raised around academies’ recruitment processes. As they are not bound by governmental regulations, they can hire unqualified teachers drafted in to teach standardised curriculums.

The petition called on the governors to ‘halt the damaging plans to privatise our community school and hand it over to a multi-academy trust’.

Elizabeth Raston has a child at the grammar school and fought off academisation at Hove Park School.

She said the speed at which the academisation was being pushed through was ‘shocking’ and contested the view that joining an academy was inevitable.

There were other choices, she said, such as allowing West Sussex County Council to assess the school’s situation in more detail.

The joint secretary of the NEU’s West Sussex branch, Anne Barker, agreed. She said: “All education providers are being affected by the lack of funding, all educational professionals, parents and pupils, and whole communities are crying out for investment and improvement.

“Funding and economies of scale will not improve for Steyning Grammar school and its community but will potentially diminish compared with what they receive under West Sussex.

“Handing over Steyning Grammar School to an unaccountable multi-academy trust is not the way forward. Academisation results in damage to the education and learning of the young people and students of our communities.”

Steyning Grammar School has been approached for comment.