School delighted to become area's first church academy
ILFRACOMBE Arts College is expected to become North Devon's first Church Academy secondary school by April, the Journal can reveal.
Headteacher Sharon Barnes said she was very excited about the school's new direction and believed it would have a positive effect for the whole community.
Last year the Journal reported on the college's plans to become a Voluntary Controlled Church School.
This would have seen the college remain under local authority control but with extra support from the church.
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Mrs Barnes said: "However, the Government wants all schools to become academies by 2015 and, after speaking with the Department for Education (DfE), they said the best route for our college was to become a church academy.
"This means the school will no longer be under local authority control and will be free to manage its own business with support from the Diocese of Exeter."
Under current legislation schools deemed good or outstanding by Ofsted can apply to become academies with a partner of their choice. Lower ranked schools are usually given partners.
Although Ilfracombe Arts College's last Ofsted inspection was satisfactory, a visit by DfE officials this year rated the college as an emerging school due to its good leadership and strategic planning.
This means it has been allowed to choose its own academy partner.
Mrs Barnes said the Diocese of Exeter was the obvious choice.
She said: "The church has 200 years of experience in education and a proven track record. There are more outstanding church schools in the UK than any other category.
"Also, almost all of our feeder primary schools are Church of England schools.
"We have consulted students, staff, parents and governors and received a lot of very positive feedback."
Mrs Barnes said the church's involvement would have no impact on the faith of students who attend the college.
She said: "It will be a school for people of all beliefs and those with no beliefs at all. Our admissions policy will not change.
"All staff will transfer to the academy on the same terms and conditions.
"There are no plans to change pay scales and I don't foresee any redundancies.
"Students will have a huge say in any changes and we are in the process of setting up a working group which will determine any changes to uniform, school name, logo and prospectus."
The school's current board of governors would be disbanded and replaced by 13 directors.
Mrs Barnes said: "Many of the existing governors will transfer over and become directors.
"They will have a range of skillsets and will represent our whole learning community."
Mrs Barnes said the college would remain an integral part of the community and would continue to honour leasing agreements for use of the school with sports clubs and community organisations.
Mrs Barnes said although she has had mixed feelings about academies in the past, she is very excited about this move.
She said: "The church is interested in high quality, inclusive schools which is very attractive to us.
"It's an exciting time for the school and the town."
The Right Reverend Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, added: "I extend a very warm welcome to IIlfracombe Arts College as it becomes a Church of England Academy.
"We already have a history of strong cooperation with the school and look forward to working with pupils, parents and staff to support the school as it goes from strength to strength."
The Reverend Robert Harris, Chair of Governors at Ilfracombe Arts College, said: "The Church of England has a long history of involvement in education and is renowned for the high standards achieved by its schools.
"It has a particular commitment to serving the needs of whole communities and is inclusive, seeking to serve all regardless of race, religion, ability or social status."