A Scarborough school for special needs has officially launched as a self-governing academy.
Woodlands Academy is the first school in the town to make the conversion and the first specialist academy in North Yorkshire.
The new status means the academy, in Woodlands Drive, can break away from the traditional constraints of the local authority, providing a greater opportunity to cater for the pupils’ individual needs.
It is hoped the move will also encourage more collaboration with other schools in the area, as well as the community, in a bid to aid further development.
Headteacher Annette Fearn said: “We decided after looking at all the facts and having spoken to people, including staff, parents, carers, governors, we felt it was definitely the best option because we wanted to move the very specific specialist curriculum that we have forward.
“There were constraints under local authority control. Here we base everything around the children being confident and able to engage in learning. All the children have learning difficulties, which range between severe to moderate. We have seen children, for example, who are of high cognitive ability but have autism. That means they can’t learn in a set way. So what we wanted to do is meet all these needs and this is a way of being able to do that without constraints. “It is about finding a way into each individual that motivates them so they want to achieve.” The academy, which has 81 pupils, aged from two to 14, is totally independent, which means it is not part of a group or chain. It has been able to secure this status due to its consistently high Ofsted results.
“It was certainly a very interesting process. It took a lot of time and effort because we have moved to being a company, which is out of our comfort zone. It was a steep learning curve but it feels worth it. We now feel there is going to be a difference,” said Mrs Fearn, who has worked at the school for 10 years, four as headteacher.
“The company is non-profit making. Financially we don’t gain anything, but we have the ability to choose how to spend money, so we can focus on the areas we believe are important.”
The school converted to an academy on April 1, however it hosted an official launch party last Friday, which saw a new logo unveiled.
Mrs Fearn said: “We held a competition for the children to design the logo. The winners were Holly Rogers and Jack Wilson who had their ideas created by a designer. We had a party for the children and invited parents and governors to celebrate the fact we have now achieved it.”
The academy will now focus on developing further and plans to forge a closer relationship with its link school, Graham, as well as look at ways it can work with the community.
“At the moment it feels very exciting and I now hope we can start to create more of a difference,” said Mrs Fearn.