School makes history in academy-change

A SOMERSET first school has escaped cutting its support staff by around 20 per cent after becoming the first of its kind to change to a new-style academy.

Weare First School will be the first primary school in the county and the first school, teaching youngsters aged four to nine, in the country to receive this status.

Following its grading as outstanding by Ofsted in 2008, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, invited the school to apply for academy status as part of a new scheme under the coalition government.

Weare First School will officially change to an academy tomorrow (Friday) and will be holding celebrations to mark the historic occasion.

This status means the school will be registered as a company, with three directors, who then appoint the governing body.

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The school will be given extra funding which will go straight into its account rather than being dished out by Somerset County Council.

David Williams, headteacher, said: “We will receive additional funding in that we will receive the element normally retained by the local authority – the funding will come directly from the government.

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“This will impact upon our staffing as we were looking at having to cut back some of our support staff hours, but the increase in funding should enable us to maintain our current levels.”

The school will also have more independence and Mr Williams said he will be using this to build on its success.

He added: “Academy status will allow us to focus on things that have made our school such a good school. We can adjust our curriculum to make sure it is exciting and challenging.

“We can administer our own admission arrangements to make sure that we have class sizes that match the needs of the pupils and the school.”

Mr Williams said there was some initial trepidation when parents and staff realised the school would be the only first school in the country to have made the transition.

He told the Mercury: “As the process has progressed this trepidation has been replaced by a sense of excitement and optimism for the future as the opportunities academy status represent have become clear.”

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