William Gladstone Church Of England Academy name change is ‘attempt to distort history’, says Newark MP Robert Jenrick
Newark MP Robert Jenrick has criticised a school’s decision to remove William Gladstone from its name, and says it should instead be focused on raising standards.
William Gladstone Church Of England Academy, Newark, is now known as The King’s Church of England Primary Academy.
The name change coincided with black lives matters protests. The family of the former Prime Minister, and Newark MP, had links to the slave trade.
Mr Jenrick said Gladstone was one of the greatest figures of the 19th Century.
“I am saddened by the renaming of the William Gladstone school on the pretext of his family’s link to slavery,” he said.
“Gladstone was Newark’s MP and our country’s Prime Minister. He was one of the greatest figures of the 19th Century.
“This attempt to distort history and, having done so, to extinguish our connection with it, is reprehensible.”
Mr Jenrick pointed out that the school was classed as requiring improvement by Ofsted.
“The school should be educating and informing its pupils of our history, not cancelling our culture and wasting money on rebranding. And its headteacher and governors should focus on raising standards for the benefit of young people — which is their job,” he said.
The primary school, on Holden Crescent, approved the name change after months of consultation with trustees and governors.
It recently held a celebration day to mark the change of its name to The King’s Church of England Primary Academy.
Head Sarah Clarke declined to comment on what Mr Jenrick had to say.
However, at the time of the consultation, she said: “I have to be honest and say that as a school we have long been at odds with the name, and the fact that it doesn’t reflect that we are a Church of England school.
“In addition, the name itself and what it means could make many people in our community feel they might not be as valued as others.
“This simply could not be further from the truth. In our school community, all are welcome, valued and treated with equity and respect.
“Raising aspirations in our school community, and ensuring all children are proud of their school association is key to all future success.
“We are proud of our Christian distinctiveness and all Church of England schools by design have inclusivity at their heart.
“Though our discussions on this matter were started months ago, we do feel powerfully aligned with the will for change being driven by the #blacklivesmatter campaign.”
The school set out a vision it said more accurately reflected its ethos.