Stratton Farm campaigners carry on the fight

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Campaigners hoping to save a school farm say they have secured a face-to-face meeting with the chairman of the governors.

The ‘Save Stratton School Farm’ campaign has been ramping up the pressure after the announcement fron Stratton Upper School last month that the much-loved farm would be closing in July.

The campaign’s market stall in Biggleswade town centre collected 300 signatures in just three hours as campaigners urged the local community to back their plea for a stay of execution for the farm.

A further 100 were collected at the Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire Hardy Plant Society the following day.

The group is planning a leafleting campaign which it says will target “every front door in Biggleswade”.

Two Central Bedfordshire councillors are closely involved with the campaign’s efforts, and “Save Stratton School Farm” has pushed for the closure of the farm to stand as an agenda item at a future meeting of the town council.

Now Madeline Russell, Chairman of Trustees at Stratton, has agreed to requests for a private meeting with the group’s representatives.

“This is what we’ve been fighting for, really,” said spokesman Ben Knight, who has pleaded for the farm’s future as he drew on his own experience of the benefits of the farm whilst suffering with a severe mental health condition. “The whole principle behind academisation was that schools should be directly accountable to parents, students and local communities - when Stratton became an academy school, it gained the right to make its own decisions without the oversight of elected councillors; so it is incredibly important that we do hold these people to account, and hold their feet to the fire.”

Mr Knight, who left the school’s sixth form after completing his A-levels in 2016, said: “The level of interest and support is invigorating. We must have spoken to hundreds of people, and I think all but two of them were squarely behind what we’re trying to do.

“What we need from the Trust now is transparency and openness. We need to see a detailed assessment of the farm’s condition; we need to see the accounts present and historic; we need to understand what options have been pursued and what cards are still on the table.

“I’m delighted that Ms Russell, who has served the school since 1989, has agreed to meet us - I hope that we can now move forwards with a genuine community spirit and save this farm from closure.”

The campaign is now asking for experts in agriculture, construction and business management to get in touch and support the group in compiling what Mr Knight calls “a comprehensive set of proposals for the farm’s future.”

After announcing the planned closure Ms Russell said: “I appreciate that many people are upset at the closure of the farm and we are very sad that the decision had to be made.

“We feel that our FAQ responses on the school website clarify our position further, and they answer many of the questions outlined by The Chronicle.

“I’m afraid I am unable to say more at this stage for various legal reasons.”

Statements from the FAQ, which can be viewed on the school website, include: “The school does not get additional revenue funding to run the farm, and the school currently spends upwards of £100,000 a year to operate it.”