Supporters of Charles Read school vent their anger at academies trust

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People opposed to the proposal to close Charles Read Academy in Corby Glen showed their anger at a packed public meeting with Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles on Friday night.

Much of their anger was directed at the CEO of the West Grantham Academies Trust, Trudy Brothwell, and the Trust management who want to close Charles Read and transfer its 230 pupils to St Hugh’s Academy in Grantham. Consultation on the closure continues until March 28, after which the decision whether or not to close the school will be made in the Department of Education.

Mr Boles addressed the meeting at Corby Glen Methodist Chapel and was joined by Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill, parish council chairman Steve Honeywood and District Councillor Nick Robins.

Mr Boles said there was still hope that the school could be saved and that every effort should be made to put forward a good case before the end of the consultation period. He told the meeting: “I accept this is deeply painful and distressing for most of you. You must have a pretty good argument as to why the school has a future. I can make the case strongly, but ultimately it is not my decision to make.”

Mr Boles said there were a number of options which could see the school stay open. He said another academies trust could take over the school or a free school could be set up by parents or local groups, but there would have to be sufficient numbers attending the school to make it financially viable.

Mrs Brothwell was accused of neglecting Charles Read in favour of St Hugh’s. The Rev Margaret Barton, a former vice-chairman of governors at Charles Read, said the actions of the trust were a form of ‘asset-stripping’. She said: “The CEO is trying to stop this school to keep her favoured school going. It was a vibrant, happy school. The teachers were a marvellous team. Then it went down like a stone when it became part of the federation and an academy.”

The county council quickly came out to oppose the proposal when the Trust announced its plan to close the school. Coun Hill told the meeting there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. He said: “It’s obvious the school should not close for various reasons, but we need to do something quickly to make sure this does not happen.”

Elly Spilberg, who has a child at Charles Read and who works for the Pupils Referral Service in Cambridgeshire, said she feared a rise in truancy and petty crime rates if children were moved to St Hugh’s. She said: “My concern is for the students who I think will drop out of the system. I think there is going to be a lot of children voting with their feet when faced with 10 hours on a bus every week.”

Other parents voiced their fears over sending their children over a much greater distance to Grantham and to a much larger school than Charles Read. Coun Hill said parents were faced with a Hobson’s choice because schools in Bourne and surrounding areas were full or almost full, leaving parents with little option but to send their children to St Hugh’s if Charles Read closes.