School makes move for independence

Principal of Harrogate High School Andrew Bayston. 090327GS2a.
Principal of Harrogate High School Andrew Bayston. 090327GS2a.
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PLANS to link a Harrogate school with a group based in Wakefield have been abandoned in favour of greater independence.

Harrogate High School will become an academy in its own right from June 1 and become a “strategic partner” with Skipton Girls’ High School.

Talks between the two schools have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, after plans for Harrogate High to become an academy as part of the Outwood Grange “family” of schools from September 1 last year fell through.

Principal Andrew Bayston said: “We haven’t fallen out with Outwood Grange.

“It has been a very good partnership from 2007 and I’ve nothing but respect for the academy that’s centred on Outwood Grange and the trust there, but we’ve got to do what we feel is right for our young people in the future.”

When the plan with Outwood Grange was announced last year, concerns were raised about whether Harrogate High would be run from a site in Wakefield.

A new uniform was introduced, including a badge and a name change to reflect the link with Outwood.

With Skipton Girls’ High School, which was rated outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection, Harrogate High will keep its name and the current uniform, but will have a new badge reflecting its status as an academy.

The new partnership will include becoming part of the Northern Lights Alliance, formed through Skipton Girls’ High as it achieved teaching school status.

It will mean Harrogate High is part of a wider network of schools across a large area which will see teachers sharing successful ideas and tactics with each other.

“Teaching school status is one of those areas that I think will only bring benefits to the quality of learning,” said Mr Bayston.

“That’s our bread and butter. We want to offer the best to our young people that we possibly can.”

Mr Bayston said meetings and assemblies had been held to inform all staff, parents and pupils about the plans and the response had been positive.

He said the governors had done extensive work to ensure that, when the school did become an academy, it did so in the way which would most benefit the pupils and the wider community.

“I think there are different routes to conversion,” he said.

“We will be forming an umbrella trust with Skipton Girls’ High School. That does mean we have our own governing body with responsibility and that’s important alongside keeping our name and making sure we’re a school that serves this local community and making sure the decisions we make best serve our students.”

Outwood Grange’s links with Harrogate High School began in 2007, when it was brought in to help raise standards after the Harrogate school was placed on the National Challenge register.

Mr Bayston was appointed principal in 2008 and, by last summer, the GCSE pass rate for pupils achieving at least five Cs or more, including English and maths, had risen to 52 per cent.

Wishing Harrogate High success with its conversion to an academy, a spokesman from Outwood Grange Academies Trust said: “This decision was reached amicably and as a result of Harrogate High School seeking to convert to academy status while retaining its own autonomy.

“As a multi-academy sponsor, Outwood Grange Academies Trust takes full responsibility and accountability for the success of the schools which convert under its guidance, meaning that the partnership model requested by Harrogate High School could not work.”

NUT representative Dick Newson, who has been involved in meetings about the conversion to academy status, said the union did not agree with the general principle of academy schools.

But he added that, if the change was to happen, it was important that teachers’ employment terms were subject to as little change as possible.

He said: “Within a relatively short time (of converting to academy status), it would be possible to make changes to things like length of school day, term times, curriculum and so on.

“It has to be said that, so far at least, Harrogate High School seems to be adopting very largely the conditions of the local authority and there doesn’t seem to be any immediate threat.”

l Is this the right choice for Harrogate High School, its staff and the pupils? Email or write to us at the address on Page 10.