Nunney First School has become an academy on 1 June 2016, 120 years after the school moved into its current building.
The order to convert Nunney First School to academy status was and was issued by the Secretary of State for Education and confirmed by Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families and the Commercial and Business Services Director on 10 February.
Academies are state-funded, independent schools that receive funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority. The head teacher or principle runs the school on a day-to-day basis, but an individual charitable body called an academy trust oversees the school’s performance.
An academy school can be part of a chain of other academy schools. The trust and chain provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview.
Academy schools can take their own decisions on pay, length of the school day and term times and and can opt out of the national curriculum (although GCSE exams will still be based on the national curriculum). They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools.
Academy trusts are private charities that cannot run schools for profit. If a trust does a bad job of running a school it will have to give it back, including the buildings and the land. Academy schools are regularly inspected by Ofsted, just like other schools.
The academy programme was started under the Labour government in order to help ailing schools. The number of schools converted to academy status grew dramatically under the coalition government.
Well-performing schools can apply for academy status to give them greater autonomy, while problem schools can have the decision to convert to academy status taken for them in order to make improvements.
In May, Prime Minister David Cameron abandoned plans to force all schools to become academies by 2022. The plans were originally announced in the Budget, but were met with criticism from teaching unions and education professionals.
Teaching unions argued that the academy programme was a way of privatising the school system. Following reports of an apparent u-turn, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the academy programme and said she was determined to see all schools become academies in the next six years.
Currently, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools are academies, while 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools have academy status. There are 70 academies in Somerset at the moment.
The decision to convert Nunney First School to academy status is a direct result of the school being rated inadequate after an Ofsted inspection in April last year, which resulted in the school being placed in special measures.
The school recently came out of special measures after substantial improvements were found to have been made. Converting to academy status means that the school will make a fresh start with an entirely clean Ofsted record.
Nunney First School educates children between the ages of four and nine. It will become part of the Radstock-based academy The Partnership Trust, a multi- academy trust (MAT) created to enable the close collaboration between schools across the Bath/Keynsham/Radstock and Frome/Shepton Mallet areas.
The school will also get a new executive headteacher, Sue Heal, from 1 September.
Sue is headteacher of Hayesdown First School, one of The Partnership Trust schools, where she and her team have taken Hayesdown from special measures to Good at their most recent Ofsted.
Conversion to academy status will have no consequences for existing staff in Nunney under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), but the school will benefit from practical support and best practice across the whole group of schools.
For children at Nunney First School conversion to academy status won’t make any noticeable difference either, although the move is expected to help standards of education at the school improve further.
Celebrations to mark 120 years in the current building continue, with £3,000 raised so far. The next event are bingo on 11 June and a Walking Treasure Hunt & Scarecrow Trail with barbecue on 25 June.
The leasehold interest in the land and buildings belonging to Nunney First School will transfer to The Partnership Trust via a 125 year so-called ‘peppercorn’ lease.
Visit Nunney approached Nunney Pre-School, based on the same land, on its future but the pre-school preferred not to comment.
The Partnership Trust will expand from three to eight schools this Autumn, including Nunney First School. The other schools in The Partnership Trust are:
- Fosse Way School (rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted)
- Hayesdown First School (improved from ‘Special measures’ to ‘Good’)
- The Mendip School (not yet rated)
- Moorlands Infant School (conversion by September 2016)
- Moorlands Junior School (conversion by September 2016)
- Marksbury C of E Primary School (conversion by September 2016)
They are also connected to the Bath and Mendip Partnership Teaching School.
Through Fosse Way School the Trust is designated as a National Support School, a Teaching School and a Sponsor School. These designations enable the Trust to provide high quality professional development and support to more than 100 schools across the region.
The story of the struggle to end child labour in Nunney that eventually led to Nunney First School is set out in our exhibition Nunney Scarecrows.