“Robbed of a rite of passage” as school cancels last day of term for sixth formers

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Sharnbrook Academy entrance
Sharnbrook Academy entrance

Parents of sixth formers at a Bedford Borough school have reacted angrily at what they have said is a “shameful” decision to cancel the last day of school for sixth formers at the last minute.

Parent Melanie Lumbers said she received an email from Sharnbrook Academy at 7:45am on Friday morning (20 May) saying that study leave was starting immediately.

“My daughter hasn’t now had the chance to say goodbye to friends, or thank you and goodbye to the many amazing staff who have helped her over the years,” said Melanie.

”They’ve been robbed of a rite of passage,” she said

It’s understood some students were even already at the school after being dropped off by parents on their way to work, they then had to be picked up and taken home.

Many other parents added to the criticism of the school by posting comments on the school’s Facebook page and on a now-deleted post they shared on Twitter.

In comments which have now been removed by the school, one parent said it was “shameful” and that “last day celebs have happened for years, without disrupting exams.”

The school appears to have deleted their posts on Twitter that attracted negative comments and deleted or hidden criticism from its Facebook page.

The Bedford Independent was sent screenshots of the comments, including one that seemed to sum up the general feeling of parents and year 13 students.

“Sharnbrook Academy hold your heads in shame. No last day together for y13 students, announced this morning. The same group that had no GCSEs, no y11 last day or prom and no y13 prom organised by the school either. Not acceptable,” it said.

Events postponed

The school has defended their decision blaming reports that a number of students were planning to “disrupt the running of the school during the last day.”

Last year (2021), the Sharnbrook Academy was subject to vandalism the night before the final day of Year 13 lessons, Principal Clare Raku said some students had attempted the same this year.

She also says that the school had made plans for the final day of lessons for Year 13 students which included an afternoon of happy, fun events, but these will now happen at a later date.

“We had to take the decision to postpone the planned events for the final day of lessons as a small number of students attempted to gain access to the school site late in the evening of Thursday 19 May,” said Ms Raku.

“Very sadly, a small number of students believe that they are entitled to mark the end of their time at school by damaging property and disrupting the running of the school day.

“This is not why the day is organised and this attitude spoils things for the majority and presented the school with a very difficult choice early on Friday 20 May.”

Some parents, however, believe the actions of a few people should not have impacted the whole year.

“Proud of them enough to punish them all for a minority of students who attended to prank early hours of this morning, their mental health is already fragile living though (sic) covid, curriculum not being fully covered.

“Again missing celebrations. Deal with those involved by Police,” said one parent on Twitter.

Ms Raku said that the risk of a minority affecting examinations taking place at the school on the same day was too great.

“We could have either gone ahead with an event that presented a high risk of disruption to the rest of the school and public examinations or postponed for another time and date when the event can proceed without such risks.

“Very reluctantly, we chose to postpone, and in doing so understandably disappointed many students who simply wanted to mark their last day pleasantly,” she said.

Apology

Ms Raku did offer an apology to students, families and staff who were disappointed at the late postponement of events.

“We must emphasise that the decision was based on a need to protect the safety and smooth running of the school for the majority of students, many of whom were scheduled to sit public examinations,” she said.

Adding, “We recognise that this year group, perhaps more than any, have experienced a great deal of disruption to the usual patterns of schooling as a result of the pandemic and look forward to running our rescheduled leavers’ event very soon,” she added.

Rob Robson, chair of Sharnbrook Academy’s Academy Council said they “fully support the school leadership.”

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