All change as schools merge

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A NEW school in Harrogate has opened its doors following the Easter break.

Pupils at Willow Tree Primary School are getting used to new arrangements - but in familiar surroundings.

The school has been formed following a merger between Woodlands Junior School and Wedderburn Infant School, both on the same site. A consultation saw almost 100 per cent support from parents and the governing bodies agreed for the merger to go ahead.

The new school was named after a large willow tree in the nursery garden at Wedderburn and the first week of the summer term saw numerous celebrations for pupils and staff, including planting trees and constructing a new playground. Former pupils were also invited back to the site to look at the changes, meet old friends and look at old photographs from the school’s history.

Former Wedderburn headteacher Helen Davey is in charge of the new school, with the deputy heads of both former schools, Karen Dagett and Emma Crisell, continuing in their roles.

Meanwhile, former Woodlands head Richard Whiteley has decided to retire, after helping celebrate the school’s 72nd anniversary this year.

Mr Whiteley has spent 35 years in the profession, beginning at St Peter’s School in Harrogate in 1976.

He said: “My first headship was in a small village school. No computers, no teaching assistant, no budget to manage. There was also no National Curriculum; we made our own syllabus. It was hard work but great fun.”

He was seconded to teach the infant class at the village school in Grewelthorpe, then became deputy head of Bishop Monkton School in 1981. His first role as headteacher was at Markington School in 1985, followed by York’s Scarcroft School in 1991. He was appointed headteacher at Woodlands in 1997 and has been there ever since.

Reflecting on the changes he has seen since his first headship, he said: “I am more of a managing director now, 40 staff, just short of a million pound budget, up to my neck in performance targets and closely monitored by Ofsted. The difference could not be greater – only the needs of the children remain constant.”