Farnley Academy: Sir John Townsley speaks out after second day of protest

Protests were held at Farnley Academy today.

The chief executive of the trust which runs The Farnley Academy has spoken out against ‘reckless’ adults after a second day of protests at the school.

The Chapel Lane school is facing a backlash over a policy restricting pupils to using one set of toilets during lesson time. The first protest was held on school grounds on Friday morning and the latest protest, attended by more than 100 pupils, took place on land near the school this morning (Monday).

Some pupils were holding a banner reading ‘human rights’, and the protest was also attended by some adults.

But Sir John Townsley, who heads up the GORSE Academies Trust, said a “handful of parents” and other adults with no connection to The Farnley Academy had played a role in orchestrating the protests, with some harassing children as they arrived at school this morning.

A second protest was held this morning

He said a number of threatening comments directed towards staff had also been referred to the police.

Sir John’s comments today follow on from Farnley Academy principal Chris Stokes yesterday writing to parents and guardians following threats to staff, including one to “blow up the school with staff within it”.

The school says the toilets policy was introduced due to “two very serious safeguarding events”.

Sir John’s statement in full

“All of us connected to life at The Farnley Academy are taken aback to find ourselves in a position whereby a small number of children, directly orchestrated by a handful of parents and other adults who do not and never have had children at the school, are seeking to protest in this way.

“We know that the background to this is a national Tik Tok campaign which is directly connected to events portrayed in a TV programme supposedly depicting life in schools today.

“This morning a number of adults and pupils have protested on grounds adjacent to The Farnley Academy. Again, this also included adults who are not connected to our school community.

“Sadly, some of those people harassed children who were seeking to come into school, resulting in many of our pupils arriving with us feeling upset and unsettled.

“Over the course of the weekend some of the adults involved in this action have used social media in order to act in a totally unacceptable way. This has included making very personal comments about professionals at The Farnley Academy and threatening comments which have now been reported to the police.

“To this point, we remain uncertain as to the demands of those involved in this matter. We know that nationally protests have been centred around the following areas:

  • the use of mobile phones in schools;
  • access to toilets during lesson time;
  • uniform standards. We wish to make clear in the most certain terms possible that we consider the professional stance that we take in all three areas to be essential in ensuring that our schools are great places in which to learn and thrive. Allowing pupils to use mobile phones routinely in school would, in our opinion, result in behaviours which are not only unacceptable but also impact upon safeguarding and child protection.Though we do, when necessary, allow children to use toilets during lesson times we strongly encourage our pupils to use the toilets before and after school and during break times. A situation which sees children going to the toilet throughout the day whenever they so choose would result in a loss of learning time across the curriculum which would be totally unacceptable. Once again, such a policy would also present major safeguarding and child protection issues.

“We are extremely proud of our uniform standards at The Farnley Academy and across the trust. Those standards are a part of our identity and of great importance to us and our parents /carers.

“We do not, under any circumstances, believe that the adults involved in organising this action are in any way representative of our community. The Farnley Academy is an extremely popular and respected school; this is reflected in the fact that well over 700 families have applied for places at the school for September 2023. Those families have made those choices based upon the values and the standards that we hold dear.

“We are absolutely determined to ensure that our standards are in keeping with all that our community seeks in a great school.

“The adults involved in this action are behaving in a truly reckless way, inciting children to act in an unacceptable manner for their own satisfaction. They do not understand how schools operate, particularly around safeguarding and child protection, and they will not impose upon us a way of acting which is irresponsible, destructive and dangerous.

“We would ask all our parents /carers to support us in having their children return to school as normal and to expressing any views that they have about how our school could be improved and developed further through the correct mechanisms, including the Student Leadership Team.”

The school this morning held an extended form time for students to write down their views on the toilet arrangements.

A school statement on Friday said one set of toilets are open during all lesson times, are accessible from all parts of the school, and a member of staff is present to ensure all students are safe.

During break and lunch, students are then able to use all of the toilets in school.

The statement added: “We actively encourage all students to ensure that they go to the toilet before school, at break and at lunch, to avoid needing to go during lesson time. However, the option to use the toilets during lesson time remains available to students where it is needed. Additionally, through feedback from our wonderful Student Leadership Team, we are investing a further £100,000 to fully refurbish some of the toilets within the school in the coming months.”


  1. Farnley Academy, use of toilets: I wonder how many Oxbridge entrants will come from the students of this establishment in the summer.
    The pupils should concentrate of making use of the benefits available to them instead of getting involved in this nonsense.

  2. Sadly this kind of rule is necessary to safeguard all the students. It is common practise in many school. It prevents time wasting, smoking, possible drug trading in the toilets, grafitti, disruption to other lessons, even students bunking off or sexual messing about. Yes all of this has been known.
    Is it too much to expect secondary pupils to have enough control to last through a lesson without needing the toilet? The school will be aware of students with special “toilet needs”. All the schools I have worked in have had locked toilets, with students having to go to the Office for the key, (usually attatched to a giant key fob) and having to sign for it and sign on its return. Some unreliable students were escorted to the toilet and back to their class. Parents need to support teachers as they try to foster self discipline in young people and prepare them for the rules of the work place.


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