New academy boss outlines future vision

PUBLISHED: 12:52 08 May 2011

Hans Price Academy principal Armando Di-Finizio

Hans Price Academy principal Armando Di-Finizio

Archant

A WESTON school has become the first in North Somerset to complete an academy conversion, reopening this week under a brand new name.

Wyvern Community School closed for the final time on Thursday, and reopened after the May Bank Holiday as the Hans Price Academy.

The Marchfields Way campus is likely to be the first of many to make the switch, which is seen as beneficial by many heads because it offers greater autonomy over budget and curriculum.

Hans Price Academy’s new principal, Armando Di-Finizio, told the Mercury he is excited about the move, but added it will be September before pupils and parents begin to notice any real changes.

He said: “From May 1 we are legally an academy, however, initially between May and September, there will be very little change.

“The school will have a new head, new stationary and signs, everything else will carry on as normal.

“It would be wrong to instigate new policies and ways of working from day one without working with staff and students to develop these together.

“Ultimately this academy belongs to the students and therefore I want them to have a real say in how it operates.”

One major change which has already been planned is a comprehensive rebuilding programme which will see the old Wyvern buildings replaced with a new £14million Hans Price campus.

All this is designed to give students the best possible start in life, according to Mr Di-Finizio.

He continued: “The vision for the academy is ‘Flourish in Life’.

“I want more than just good exam results for our students. Good GCSEs are a passport for life, but the confidence, aspirations and wherewithal to use this ‘passport’ is just as important to a young person.

“I have plans to develop our curriculum and ethos in a way that ensures we educate the whole child in everything we do.

“This will take time, but over the coming year I hope to be able to discuss, develop and share these future proposals with the community and hopefully develop positive partnerships in the process.”

Our full interview with new Hans Price Academy principal Armando Di-Finizio:

Weston Mercury: How do you, personally, feel to be arriving in Weston?

Armando Di-Finizio: I’ve been working between Weston and Bristol for the past year now and can’t wait to become settled in one place. During my time in Weston I’ve been working closely with Wyvern and the Local Authority to ensure we have a smooth change over to Academy status. I was really nervous at first coming to Weston as member of the Cabot Learning Federation; the initial worry for people in Weston was that we would just replicate what we have done in Bristol without any acknowledgement to the good practice in Wyvern and that we would not interact with the Local Authority schools, local agencies and Weston College. I personally feel a school cannot work in isolation and certainly not in isolation from its local partners. One of my priorities has been to meet as many people as possible over the past few months and to set up initiate future working relationships. What has been most encouraging is how much the community, really want the new Academy to succeed; everyone has been really welcoming and ready to work with us.

Weston Mercury: How has the change been received by pupils/staff/parents?

Armando Di-Finizio: For me what has been the most positive aspect of the job so far has been the welcoming attitude of the students when I’ve met them around the school. They are all really excited by the prospect of a new school. The parents have also been very welcoming and I hope to work closely with them over the coming months in order to learn more about their hopes and aspirations for the new Academy.

I have had many words of encouragement from the staff who were at first naturally nervous about a change of employer. They have also had to undergo a restructuring process, in order to ensure the Academy is able to cope with the budgetary cuts all schools are facing. Throughout this process of transition and restructuring they have continually given me words of encouragement and supported what they feel is ultimately best for the students. This is a real testament to their professional status and commitment to teaching.

Weston Mercury: In the short term, what immediate changes can people expect?

Armando Di-Finizio: From May 1st we are legally an Academy, however, initially between May and September, there will be very little change. The school will have a new Head, new stationary and signs, everything else will carry on as normal. It would be wrong to instigate new policies and ways of working from day 1 without working with staff and students to develop these together. Ultimately this Academy belongs to the students and therefore I want them to have a real say in how it operates.

From September the Academy will open as an Academy in the ‘public eye’. Students will wear the new uniform and the new structures will be in place, allowing us to operate in the way we intend to move forwards. The new Staffing structure includes the introduction of Non-teaching Learning Mentors as Heads of Year. This allows us to focus more on and respond more quickly to the individual needs of the students.

Weston Mercury: What goals do you have for the rest of term?

Armando Di-Finizio: This term is about training, development and familiarisation for staff and students. By the end of the summer term I hope all the students will be ready and looking forward to the new start in September.

Weston Mercury: Looking a bit further ahead – can you tell us anything about your personal ambitions for Hans Price Academy?

Armando Di-Finizio: The vision for the Academy is ‘Flourish in Life’. I want more than just good exam results for our students. Good GCSE’s are a passport for life, but the confidence, aspirations and wherewithal to use this ‘passport’ is just as important to a young person. I have plans to develop our curriculum and ethos in a way that ensures we educate the whole child in everything we do. This will take time, but over the coming year I hope to be able to discuss, develop and share these future proposals with the community and hopefully develop positive partnerships in the process.

Weston Mercury: Are you able yet to put any kind of time frame on the rebuilding plans?

Armando Di-Finizio: The new build is a very exciting prospect. There have been delays at a Government Level in allocating the funding for the project, but we are assured that we will receive our £14million funding allocation imminently. If this happens, we are still hoping for a September 2013 opening.

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