Steyning Grammar School accused of ‘cloak and dagger’ tactics to push academisation

Steyning Grammar School has been accused of using the coronavirus lockdown to push through plans to join an academy trust.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 5:03 pm

Angry parents, teachers and the National Education Union (NEU) have long lamented a lack of significant consultation around plans to join Bohunt Education Trust.

This was exacerbated by the forbidding of group meetings since March and a new petition calling for the process to be delayed, so a proper consultation can take place, has already amassed more than 700 signatures.

Governors agreed to pursue academisation in March, it was officially signed off in May and is set to be formalised on November 1.

DM1912625a.jpg. Church Street, Steyning. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190126-232211008

One of the petition’s creators, Stephen Hollis, of Parsonage Road, said the process was so ‘cloak and dagger’ even some parents of new Year 7 pupils were not told of the academisation plans when applying for places.

“A lot of parents either don’t know about it or thought it was a done deal,” said Stephen, 45, who has two daughters at the school.

“The ‘consultation process’ hasn’t actually been a consultation process – they more or less told us ‘this is what’s happening’. Now they’ve pushed it through in the pandemic when no-one could do anything.”

The petition argues a radical shake-up would not be appropriate amid the Covid-19 pandemic and what is needed is continuity.

It also claims the governors did not follow the correct process for academisation, which dictates the school must engage in a formal consultation with parents, teachers and the wider community.

The petition says: “The parents of Steyning Grammar School were supposed to be consulted about the academisation plans and given enough time to object to the governors decision.

“As it stands, we were not. The deal had already been done and a pathetic attempt to cobble something together was thrown in our direction.”

It has also called for the minutes of governors’ meetings to be made public, as well as minutes of meetings between the governors and Bohunt.

The NEU has thrown its weight behind the petition. A spokesman said the irreversible process should not be taken lightly by a small group of governors ‘acting without the support of the school community and the wider community that it serves.’ It described the timing as an ‘unnecessary distraction’.

Steyning Grammar School declined to comment.