Farnley Academy toilet row: Principal speaks out over abuse and threats from adults

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The Farnley Academy

Farnley Academy’s principal has criticised ‘highly abusive’ adults who have ‘threatened violence’ to staff following Friday’s student protests over school policy which has led to some toilets being locked during lesson time.

As reported by WLD on Friday, pupils are being asked to use one set of toilets during lesson time, which is leading to queues.

Some parents also say children are being denied permission to use the toilets during lesson time – a claim denied by the school, which is run by the Gorse Academies Trust.

In a letter to parents and guardians, principal Chris Stokes this evening (Sunday) said he had ‘done a great deal of reflecting over the weekend, as well as reading of the various forums and news outlets that are reporting /discussing our academy’.

“Whilst many of the comments are supportive of our academy, it has brought me no joy to read some of the highly abusive, upsetting, and frankly abhorrent comments that some adults in our community have made,” he added.

“Freedom of speech does not extend to threats of violence towards members of staff, myself included, nor does it extend to a desire to, in one case, blow up the school with staff within it. All such comments will continue to be reported to the police. 

“In partnership, we must work together to raise young people to recognise that whilst yes, everyone has the right to have their views heard, this does not extend to taking matters into their own hands and causing deliberate harm to others.

“At The Farnley Academy, we have several mechanisms to put forward student feedback. The Student Leadership Team is a fantastic group of students who actively seek to put forward the views of their peers, and genuinely want to make a positive difference.

“These students were at the centre of changes to rules on haircuts, trousers, the increase to 12 negative comment boxes and the half-termly verbal warning resets around equipment, uniform and being late to school. They are also currently putting together a proposal for changes to our rules on earrings. These students make a difference in the right way.

“The request made to students to use only the Bronte toilets during lesson time is not new and it was discussed with our Student Leadership Team at our last meeting. Student leaders reported that it made no difference and they were still able to visit the toilet when they needed to.

“If it is the view of a wider group of students that on this occasion, the Student Leadership Team has not accurately represented their views, then I am very happy for further discussion to take place.”

Mr Stokes said that on Monday morning, there will be an extended form time that will run from 8.30am to 9.10am where all students have the opportunity to write down their views.

“The Student Leadership Team will then take the time to review all responses and discuss with me their collective views on how we can improve things,” Mr Stokes added. “Once I have received the views of the Student Leadership Team, I will address the matter with students, parents and carers, and will let you know what, if any changes we will be making. 

“I hope that you will agree that the above approach is sensible and will allow appropriate and constructive dialogue to take place. I look forward to writing to you again in the coming weeks to provide you with an update on the matter.

“In the meantime, I would ask all parents /carers to support our work by ensuring that students express their views through the correct forums and not be encouraged to act by parents /carers in a manner which puts themselves, or others at risk.”

The school says the policy not to have all toilets open during lesson time was taken following two ‘very serious safeguarding events’.

But pupils protested against the policy before school on Friday morning and several Facebook groups have seen pupils’ parents vent their concerns, with claims students had been excluded for going to the toilet without having a note.

Some parents on social media this evening accused Mr Stokes of trying to shift the blame onto the student leadership team and called on him to take responsibility for the issue.

Another parent said on Friday that pupils who need to pay a visit must get a written note from teachers in their planners, permitting them to use the facilities and then hand that note to the staff member outside the toilet. Once the pupil enters, the member of staff allegedly remains outside close to the door and hands the pupil toilet paper. “It’s disgusting they are treating kids like this. It leads to queues of 20 minutes or so.”

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