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School to become Witney's first academy
A 350-year-old Witney school is set to become the town’s first academy tomorrow.
Staff at Henry Box School in Church Green hope the change will allow them to bring in more staff and have more money to spend on teaching resources.
As part of the change the 1,400 pupil secondary school will take over a former police station on site, which has until now been used by Oxfordshire County Council staff.
It is planned to convert the police station – a listed building – to a new reception, entry and offices for the school.
That means space currently used for those purposes in the main school can be freed up as teaching areas, in particular special educational needs provision.
The works will cost in the region of £40,000 from the school’s capital budget, and are set to be carried out during the summer holidays.
The change of status to academy is subject to getting the final sign-off from the Department of Education, which is expected to happen this week.
Headteacher Nicky Edmondson said: “We have been considering this for a long time, it’s not something we have rushed into. We have been taking into account the views of the community and weighing up all the options. It seems to us this is definitely the right thing for the school.”
She said there would be a “considerable” financial benefit for the school in the first year but would not be drawn on exactly how much that would amount to.
Mrs Edmondson explained the money would be spent on extra resources for special educational needs and literacy, bringing in a specialist and increasing support staff.
She said: “One of the things we welcome are the additional freedoms becoming an academy brings although at the moment we don’t have any plans to make any changes to the curriculum or teachers’ conditions.
“We see this as a way of protecting the education we offer to our children so if there are future changes to the curriculum, we can decide for ourselves whether or not those are things which are of benefit to the children of Henry Box School.”
The school has a long history, opening 352 years ago in 1660.
Mrs Edmondson was enthusiastic about the opportunity to take over the old building, which operated as a police station until 1968.
She said: “That was a really exciting thing for the school. It has been on the site development plan for the school for about 10 years that we would eventually convert it to the school and now that’s going to happen because of becoming an academy.
“I don’t think the children will see any difference at all on Friday, because we haven’t gone for academy status in order to implement lots of big changes.
“It’s very much business as usual.”