King Edward VII and Queen Mary School (updated 09/10/11)

Web KEQMS 200911

FYLDE MP Mark Menzies is to write to the Department for Education to put forward parents concerns about the proposed merger/takeover of King Edward VII and Queen Mary School and Arnold School.

Since the announcement was made two weeks ago by the schools’ Boards of Governors, Mr Menzies has been innundated with letters, emails and telephone calls from concerned parents.

He has now written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, as well as the Board of Governors at KEQMS and UCST, to put forward parents concerns.

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UPDATE: (28/09/11)

Mr Menzies is in the process of replying to every letter and email from parents. This will, of course, take some time and he is doing his best to respond to specific points raised within letters as well as providing general information which will be helpful to everyone. Letters have now been sent to the Department for Education, the Board of Governors and UCST and as soon as a response is received Mr Menzies will feedback the outcome. (END UPDATE)

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FURTHER UPDATE: (04/10/11)

Mr Menzies has now replied to more than 100 further letters and emails from parents about the situation. A meeting is being arranged shortly with the Governors and Mr Menzies is hoping to hear back from UCST very soon. Thanks to your emails and letters Mr Menzies now has a very clear picture of the situation and parents views so please restrict emails to fresh information only for now. This would be very helpful in allowing Mr Menzies to deal with the task in hand as well as the many other issues we are facing in Fylde, not least the issues at BAE Systems, which, of course, require urgent attention. Many thanks.

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UPDATE THREE – 09/10/11

Statement to the press by Mark Menzies MP following meeting with Board of Governors at KEQMS and receipt of a letter from UCST (which will be put online as soon as technical issues allow). Mr Menzies will write to all parents who have written to him about this issue this week to update all interested parties.

“I had a very focused and frank meeting with the Board of Governors who listened carefully to the concerns I raised on behalf of parents. They were open and honest about the mistakes that were made in the initial handling of communications around the merger, in particular the way it was announced and communicated to parents. They also indicated a willingness to improve communication and respond as directly as possible to concerns set out in parents’ letters.

“I think many parents would also welcome an apology and the same level of recognition of these problems from UCST and I think it’s vital that they too adopt a more conciliatory tone.

“Nevertheless, despite the points I raised, the Governors at KEQMS remain convinced that this decision is the right one for the future of the school. The Governors are now fearful that the turbulence that has been created could irreparably damage the school. I hope better communication will improve relations between parents and Governors and help prevent that from happening.”

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Here is a copy of the wording of a letter which Mr Menzies has sent to parents outlining his views on the situation and the actions he proposes to take.

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the proposed merger/takeover of King Edward VII and Queen Mary School and Arnold School.

I have received a significant number of emails and letters following the announcement last week by the Board of Governors. All the correspondence expressed severe concerns about the move. I have received little positive feedback in support of the proposal. The issues raised include concerns about class sizes, the continuity of education both in terms of teachers and peer groups, extra -curricular activities, course choices, the timing of the announcement itself and the level of notice being given to parents and pupils. Other points raised include anger over a lack of consultation on the proposals, frustration at the potential disruption the proposed changes may cause and concerns about the proposed departure of Mr Karling in particular who, the feedback I have received shows, is a tremendously well respected Principal.

I should say from the outset that I am unsure as to how much influence I will be able to bring on the Governors thinking. The school is, of course, a private enterprise and is not, therefore, bound by the same rules as a state school would be in these circumstances. The Department of Education do not have the same controls they would over changes to a state school. This, of course, has proved to be advantageous in the past in terms of the academic and economic freedoms it has allowed KEQMS.

Nonetheless I am keen to play an active role in supporting you. I have always found the pupils, parents and teachers with whom I have come into contact to be extremely passionate about doing the right thing for the school. The letters I have received lay out truly heartfelt concerns about the futures of the young people of the Fylde area and many draw on the extensive heritage of the school. Indeed it has not just been parents who have been in touch. Former pupils have also written to me to express their views.

In the first instance, I feel the correct thing to do is to inform the Department for Education and, of course, the Board of Governors and UCST, of the concerns I have received. I have no doubt all three will have received a significant amount of correspondence about the matter already. I will share the responses of the Department, the Board and UCST publically via my website www.markmenzies.org.uk which, it seems, is the most sensible way of communicating the news to a wide audience. If people do not have access to the internet and require copies of the responses when they arrive I will happily arrange for them to be passed on.

Many of the letters and emails I have received have primarily cited the need for time, consultation and greater thought to be given to these proposals. Receiving the news via text message as many parents did must have, I am sure, come as a great shock. I believe there is a need for greater discussion and engagement with the community and parents and I will make this clear in my letter to the Governors.

With regards to the current petitions and parents groups which are now forming I am certainly happy to meet with a delegation as soon as possible. A number of the parents who I have spoken to personally were very keen that this takes place. Whilst there is, of course, considerable pressure on my time due to my other Parliamentary and constituency commitments, I hope to be able to act as a conduit for your concerns and hope we can establish a positive dialogue which will allow for reasoned debate of the proposal and improved communication at all levels.

I am, of course, happy to take continuing representations on the matter and I will do my best to respond to every single email and letter.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Menzies – Member of Parliament for Fylde

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