New era for four Welwyn Hatfield schools as they become academies

FOUR schools have become the first in Welwyn Hatfield to convert to academy status, gaining them the freedom to “stand on their own two feet”.

Applecroft School announced the changes to parents, staff and children last week, after its conversion from March 1 was agreed by governors.

The junior school joins secondaries Stanborough, which changed over on February 1, Onslow St Audrey’s and Bishop’s Hatfield, which both converted in January.

Under the Coalition’s Academy scheme, schools are free from local authority control and funded directly by the Government.

All four schools spent months consulting parents and staff as they investigated making the change.

Vicky Parsey, head at Applecroft School, in Applecroft Road, WGC, said: “Academies are an ideal way for successful schools to stand on their own feet.

“We will have more freedom to act in the best interests of our students and provide them with an even better education.”

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She said: “The attraction of academy status is simply the freedom to progress as you wish in uncertain economic times.

“Our curriculum will be free of Government influence and structured entirely in our pupils’ best interests.”

Peter Brown, headteacher at Stanborough School, in Lemsford Lane, WGC, said: “The lengthy consultation process, during which there were many question-and-answer newsletters and much staff and parent engagement, has persuaded us that conversion is in the best interests of our pupils.

“The main difference would be in the funding arrangements and our ability to use our resources in the most effective way to continue improving the quality of teaching and learning, and our decision will be made in the best interests of the school, students and staff.”

Paul Meredith, headteacher of Onslow St Audrey’s School in Old Rectory Drive, Hatfield, said: “We believe academy status will allow us to continue to make the excellent progress achieved in the recent years.

“Our next objective is to attract capital funding to allow us to develop our buildings and facilities which were sadly neglected by the local authority when we were one of its schools.”

The Welwyn Hatfield Times was unable to speak to Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School head Theodora Nickson at the time of writing.

But a statement about academy status on the Woods Avenue school’s website said: “We will continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of school life to enable our girls to take their place as articulate, responsible and sensitive citizens in the community.”

?* Lakeside School, in Lemsford Lane, WGC, has put its academy plans on hold. As a special school it must be closely aligned with the county council. Headteacher Judith Chamberlain said: “We have deferred the process for now, though we are keeping the option under close review.”