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Parents divided over school name change

A ROW has erupted between parents over the recent surprise announcement of a change of name for Stratford’s oldest primary school.

The concerns which have emerged are set to be discussed at a meeting between parents and school governors tonight, Thursday.

The renaming of The Willows C of E Primary School to Holy Trinity C of E Primary from September has sparked a hefty postbag to the Herald – letters of both support and opposition.

The plans seem to have divided parents, some angered by lack of consultation about the rebranding exercise – implemented to strengthen the school’s links with Holy Trinity Church. Parents against are also critical about the way the information has been conveyed to them.

Among them are Sam Flynn, aged 40, and his wife, Victoria, who are not in favour of the name change. They were both educated at The Willows and have three children either at the school or who have attended the school.

“I thought we lived in a democracy, not a dictatorship,” Sam said when he first discovered about the rebranding via the school website. He, like other parents, did receive an official letter from the school explaining the need for change some time later.

“This is a powder keg waiting to go off. We have not been consulted and there’s even a suggestion by the school that the pupils themselves suggested the name change which is codswallop because my children weren’t asked about it.

"I think the governors should spend their time improving the school’s Ofsted rating rather than wasting resources on a name change,” Sam told the Herald. He has even created a website on social media called Save The Willows C of E Name.

By Tuesday this week the site achieved over 380 visits but has since been suspended pending the outcome of tonight’s meeting. Sam has also written to the chair of governors, the Reverend Kay Dyer, expressing his opposition to changing the name.

Fellow Stratfordian Natasha Pollock, aged 36, is also a former Willows’ pupil, who has two children at the school and a third who will be attending in the near future.

“I’m not opposed to change, it’s the manner in which it’s been done. Nobody discussed this with parents. We are not six-year-olds to be dictated to. We had no vote over this and neither did the children, and yet we can vote for who we want to be on the board of governors!

The Willows is a place we all know and love, it’s a beautiful name. “I am suspicious and concerned about the way this is being rushed through with only five weeks of the term remaining before the summer break and the name change in place in time for September.”

She, like many other parents, spends hours of her free time raising money for The Willows’ Friends to improve the school. They agreed the school website was outdated and needed improving and so they financed the project.

"What we didn’t expect was a message telling us the school was going to change its name. Now some people have said they won’t donate any more because it looks like we supported the change,” said Natasha.

But there have also been letters of support from people in favour of the rebranding seeing it as an opportunity to refocus the school and strengthen its already well established ties with Holy Trinity Church which date back to 1823 when it was founded by the Church.

Beckey Barton wrote to the Herald: “Our children are in years 3 and 5 at the school. It is completely appropriate for a Church of England school to bear the name of the church it is associated with.

"In this case even more so as the two buildings are not close, so the link is often not realised. We are very fortunate in Stratford to have such a rich heritage and Holy Trinity is a very special church. We are proud to be associated with it.”

The Reverend Patrick Taylor, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, and the chair of governors, Kay Dyer, assured the Herald yesterday, Wednesday, they understood people’s concern and that the normal channels of communication to voice those concerns were always open.

They couldn’t put a precise figure on how much the rebranding might cost but it would be funded by external sources, although they would not be drawn as to which ones. They both agreed that there would be a “huge amount of effort to focus on improving the school” and were confident the changes proposed would help achieve this.

A statement issued by The Willows governors reads: “We are encouraged by the passion shown by the parents for school. “In the last Ofsted report the school leadership and governing body was rated as good, with the head receiving a letter of commendation from the chief inspector of Ofsted.

“Independent consultants have commended the staff on the high standard they are achieving in their teaching of the pupils.

“With the leadership of Ms Howells (head teacher) we are moving forward to use our strong links to engage with organisations in the community to expand the school’s ability to improve educational opportunities for our pupils.

“Communication with parents is key and we have our regular Parent Voice meeting, which is an opportunity for parents to discuss and share issues with the governing body.”

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