AN ABINGDON school has become the first in the town to become an academy.
The conversion of John Mason follows the trend of schools in the county including Wallingford School, Didcot Girls’ and St Birinus schools in Didcot, King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage and Faringdon Community College.
It means John Mason will have more control over its own finances, curriculum and admissions.
The school, in Wootton Road, was run by Oxfordshire County Council but on February 1 converted to an academy directly funded by the Government’s Department for Education.
The John Mason Academy Trust is set to run the school, which has 880 students. But the move has led to a mixed reaction from parents.
Mum-of-three Jacquie Cook has her son, 13-year-old Reece, at the school, while 16-year-old Seth has been through the school and 10-year-old Brad is due to start in September.
Mrs Cook, of Drayton, said: “I have put my faith in the headteacher and staff.
“I think a lot more schools will become academies in the end so I am not frightened about it. It’s not such a bad thing that they manage themselves. They may well be better off choosing how to spend their money.”
Mayor of Abingdon, Councillor Samantha Bowring was worried it could mean services like special needs teaching or music lessons could be cut.
She said: “I am quite concerned and I wonder if they will have the same provision for special needs.
“Now they are effectively a company, so if the roof leaks the county council is no longer maintaining the building. “They will have to choose between fixing that or provisions like music lessons.”
Head Di Mashiter said: “We will continue to work with Oxfordshire County Council in particular for specialist services.
“This is an exciting time in the school’s history. As we seize the opportunities in our progress to be an outstanding school, some new governors will be recruited.”
In 2011 the school was rated good after an Ofsted inspection.
The school applied to the Government to become an academy during the 2012 to 2013 academic year.
Deputy head Valerie Munro said: “We are still known as John Mason School, we have the same values as before, the same school rules, the same uniform and the same high aspirations for our young people.
“Becoming an academy makes sense, as we join other schools in enjoying benefits academy status will bring. This should enable it to get the best value from the funds it receives and give it increased financial security at a time of significant public spending cuts.
“There is no reduction in funding for SEN; we are determined to continue to support music lessons and provision for all our students, including the most vulnerable and those with learning difficulties.”
About one sixth of Oxfordshire’s state schools have converted to become an academy.
But neither of Abingdon’s two other secondaries – Larkmead School in Faringdon Road and Fitzharrys School in Northcourt Road – have made the step yet.