Stamford parents tell MP Nick Boles of education concerns

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PARENTS angry about the end of the scholarship scheme in Stamford have met their MP.

Members of Stamford Parents group have held two meetings with Nick Boles, the MP for Stamford and Bourne because they are concerned about the future of their children’s education.

Queen Eleanor School is the only state secondary school in Stamford, and does not have a sixth-form.

In the past high-achieving pupils could apply for one of 50 Lincolnshire County Council-funded scholarship schemes at the Stamford Endowed Schools.

But in 2006 the council axed the scheme and has been reducing scholarships since then. This year 24 pupils took up the final scholarship places at the schools, which usually charge £12,252 a year for day pupils.

Ann Knott, of High Street St Martin’s, has a nine-year-old at Malcolm Sargent Primary School.

She said: “People are having to make some difficult decisions. Some have moved out of Stamford and gone to Bourne.

“Why is there not a secondary school with a broad curriculum and a sixth form in Stamford?”

Exam results at Queen Eleanor have improved in recent years and the school, which will become an academy on November 1, hopes to introduce a sixth-form at some point in the future.

But parent Kevin Brooks, of Casterton Road, who has children aged eight and six at St Gilbert’s Primary School, said: “We wish Queen Eleanor had the investment to make it a good choice. But we are not seeing that.

“They say improvement will come with the conversion to an academy but this is an immediate problem facing families right now.

“I hope in five or 10 years it will have changed. But we are talking about a generation’s worth of children. What can we do about them?”

Mr Boles said it was important parents supported Queen Eleanor.

He said: “There is no substitute for committed, concerned, active, intelligent parents getting involved.

“Parents should get themselves onto the PTA and offer help, support and ideas.

“We need to find a way as a community and a local authority to improve Queen Eleanor as much as possible.”

Queen Eleanor headteacher Wendy Hamilton said her school was an option for high achievers.

She said: “I will have a conversation with any parent about how we have expanded our curriculum to cater for more able children.

“We offer an extended curriculum so pupils are taking early GCSEs when they are ready. The outcomes for our top ability pupils are excellent.”

Lincolnshire county councillor John Hicks (Ind), who represents Stamford North, said the county council was still required by law to provide education for all abilities.

Coun Hicks, who is also a Stamford town councillor, said: “The loss of the scholarship scheme has created a situation where most of the more able children are unable to access the appropriate education that should be provided. Academy status isn’t going to take that away.”

The group hopes to hold a public meeting to gauge other parents’ opinions, and has set up an online petition to try and force Lincolnshire County Council to discuss education in Stamford.

The petition needs 1,700 signatures and can be found at http://epetitionslincolnshire.firmstep.com/petitions/open. The group also has a website, www.stamfordparents.org.uk

l Endowed Schools principal Stephen Roberts promised in July to make the money the schools use to subsidise the scholarship scheme to fund bursaries instead.

The bursaries will be means-tested so some pupils could still get a fully-funded place, although most will pay a reduced rate.

Mr Roberts said he hoped to maintain the number of pupils with subsidised places at about 420, which amounts to a third of pupils, even after the last funded pupils leave in 2018.