‘Academy status will bring opportunity’

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THE HEADTEACHER of Helenswood School said that converting to academy status would help raise the aspirations of students and propel the school towards outstanding status.

It was announced at the end of March that Helenswood School governors were to begin consulting on the proposal to convert to academy status from September this year, joining the ARK Schools network of academies.

Helenswood headteacher Lucy Monk

Helenswood headteacher Lucy Monk

It looks likely that the plans will go ahead and the school will move outside of local authority control.

Lucy Monk, who has been headteacher at the girls’ school since 2009, said: “On day one there will be very few changes, but what it will bring is opportunity for the girls.

She said joining the ARK network would give Helenswood students access to summer schools at Russell Group universities, and at American universities, as well as internships and arts, sporting and debating opportunities, which they would not otherwise have access to.

“These opportunities will make our girls realise the world is their oyster. We need to broaden their horizons,” she added.

Helenswood was assessed as ‘Satisfactory’ following the last Ofsted inspection in 2011 and has since been on an upward trajectory.

Mrs Monk said that being part of a high-performing network was a key reason that ARK Schools had been chosen as a potential partner.

“We are interested in working with schools that are good or outstanding already.

“We looked at three different providers. ARK has a central support team, which the other providers did not have.”

Helenswood would be the town’s only secondary school to choose to convert rather than being sponsored to convert.

Mrs Monk was keen to emphasise that the ethos of the school would not be changing.

As an academy Helenswood would retain its current admissions policy, performing arts specialism, term dates and uniform.

The joint sixth form with William Parker Sports College will also be retained. William Parker is also applying to join the ARK Schools network after being placed in special measures.

Mrs Monk said that joining the ARK network would not force Helenswood to make any compromises.

“I am not interested in being part of a network that is ‘one-size-fits-all’,” she said, adding that as far as the students are concerned, it would be business as usual when they return to school on September 5.

The main risk for Helenswood of converting to academy status, will be taking on the lease of the building from the county council, and therefore responsibility for repairs and maintenance.

Mrs Monk said of feedback received from staff and parents during the consultation so far: “We have had a very positive response. People have asked what it will bring to the school.

“There have been a lot of questions, which is always the case when changes are made.”

The consultation will draw to a close on May 22.