A new school set to be created this year through a merger is proving to be popular with parents, according to its executive principal.
In September, Ark Alexandra Academy will be created through the merging of William Parker and Helenswood.
Yvonne Powell, executive principal, said: “Ark Alexandra is proving popular with parents. We’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in the number choosing the school for September.”
In January the Department of Education approved education bosses’ plans to make Ark William Parker and Ark Helenswood Academies into one co-educational school.
The proposals were first unveiled to the public last September.
The new school will run across two sites, with Years 7 and 8 based at the Helenswood Lower Site, and Years 9 to 11 plus Sixth Form at the William Parker site.
Following the unveiling of the proposals, Ark launched a consultation with parents.
Yvonne said: “We have had some really good feedback throughout the consultation and have listened. The name of the school was chosen by the joint Student Council of Helenswood and William Parker. The students wanted a name which was reflective of the locality of both schools, and which represents the local community and history of the area.
“Alexandra Park was opened in 1882 and two lime trees were planted in the park to represent a new beginning and local growth.
“The students felt that this was symbolic of the new journey and the fresh start for the school.
“Students were also keen to honour the legacy of the current school names and therefore they will be retained as site names. The lower school will be the Helenswood site and the upper school will be the William Parker site.
“The Student Councils are meeting regularly with school leaders to discuss how the traditions of the two schools will be preserved.
“We have already been in discussion with the William Parker Foundation to plan the 400th anniversary of the founding of the original William Parker school.
“This work is continuing and will culminate in a series of events in July that celebrates the 400th anniversary and also marks the beginning of a new chapter for the school. Students and staff from both schools will be involved in this.
“The new school will have a rigorous academic curriculum with a strong emphasis on the performing arts and sports.
“It is our aim that next year’s Year 11 students will remain in their single sex classes for all their subjects to ensure consistency in their GCSE year. They will be taught on the William Parker site.
“We are planning a number of activities as part of the transition process which will begin in March. These will include co-educational student leadership group meetings, 6th form taster sessions, site tours for current and new students, and eambuilding and careers workshops for current students.
“There will also be a number of meetings held for parents and opportunities to visit the school sites.”
Redundancies have not been ruled out, however, as a result of the merger.
Ark said both schools currently had too few students and, given the current pupil roll, there ‘may be some redundancies’.
But Ark has pledged it will ‘work closely’ with unions and aim to keep any redundancies ‘to a minimum’.
Yvonne said: “We want to make sure we have a strong curriculum model. In relation to that there could be situations where we have to make difficult decisions. But our aim is to retain and retrain and redeploy staff.
“I have a wonderful team of staff and am exceptionally proud of them.”
Helenswood’s Upper School site, which will close down, belongs to the county council and will automatically be handed back to the authority, Yvonne said.
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