Penryn College celebrates academy anniversary

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By Tom_Bailey | Monday, August 20, 2012, 11:46

The head teacher and chair of governors at a local school have hailed its move to academy status as a great success as it celebrates its one year 'academy anniversary'.

Penryn College, which provides education for more than 1,000 pupils, is a leading secondary school in the region and has been nationally recognised for its achievements, particularly academically and in leadership.

The move to academy status during the summer of 2011 has enabled the college to keep class sizes low and provide additional individual support for students who need it. It has also allowed an extensive range of extra curricular activities, including 'School on Saturday' and school holiday programmes, to remain on offer.

"When the concept of academies was introduced by the coalition government, it was given serious consideration by the governors of Penryn College – not for any political reason but for practical and financial reasons," said Henry Preston, chair of governors at Penryn College and partner at Falmouth-based solicitors' firm Preston Goldburn.

"Academies would be funded direct from government rather than the Cornwall Council, meaning that the college would receive 100% of its budget rather than losing the top slice. It also meant that more money would be available over and above the college's budget, in the short term at least."

"The college still buys in expertise and services from Cornwall Council so there is still a strong relationship there – but by becoming an academy the college is now master of its own destiny."

As part of the conversion process, Penryn College was incorporated as a charitable company and site of the college was transferred to the company on a long lease. The employment contracts of all staff were transferred to the new company and all the legal procedures and agreements were entered into with the Department of Education in order to create the funding link between the college and the Department.

"The main goal for all involved was not to notice that anything had actually changed and that goal has been achieved," added Preston, who has been a governor at Penryn College for 20 years and chair of governors since 1998.

Head teacher Marie Hunter echoed the sentiment. "Our success criteria was that the parents and students would not see anything was different, which is what has been achieved," she said. "The differences have been subtle and 'behind the scenes'; the staff, governors, uniform, name and logo did not change and the ethos of the school has remained."

She added that the switch to academy status was a positive one for staff and pupils alike. "It has helped to secure the college's immediate and medium-term financial future," she said. "The funding we secured has allowed extra opportunities for pupils through additional option choices, increased support and the continuation of teaching and learning at a high level."

Hunter added that Penryn College enjoyed a smooth transition thanks largely to the efforts of Henry Preston. "Henry led the governors and was a key member of the college's academy conversion team," she said.

"By advising the college's business and operations director, Henry ensured that we avoided pitfalls along the way. He steered us through the 'politics' and, because of his standing in the local community and the trust the school's staff have in his judgement and leadership, the journey was a smooth one."

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