Abbeyfield sets out vision for Chippenham academy

This Is Wiltshire: Abbeyfield head teacher David Nicholson, chair of governors Michele Blain, and co-founder of The Education Fellowship Johnson Kane Abbeyfield head teacher David Nicholson, chair of governors Michele Blain, and co-founder of The Education Fellowship Johnson Kane

Abbeyfield School in Chippenham aims to become an academy within a few months.

Governors have voted unanimously for the school to take academy status with sponsorship from The Education Fellowship (TEF).

It means the school would take its funding directly from central government, cutting out local authority control, and would bring in additional money from its sponsor.

Head teacher David Nicholson said academy status would bring immense benefits to the school and the focus would remain on the traditional business and enterprise specialism.

Funding assigned for school specialisms was scrapped by the Government in 2010.

But as an academy, Abbeyfield would receive five per cent extra funding from its sponsor, which would be able to influence the curriculum, though the school would still have to meet the national curriculum core subject requirements.

Co-founder of TEF, Johnson Kane, said he had spent time at Abbeyfield over the past few months and had been impressed with the quality and commitment of staff, governors and children.

He said: “With the additional resources and commitment of TEF, we can secure stability which, in turn, pursues excellence.”

The trust would offer pupils access to experiences such as performing in Westminster Abbey, choir outreach with Salisbury Cathedral and performances with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

It would introduce a lecture programme with eminent speakers challenging older students to think and engage beyond the classroom.

TEF would also provide links to leading Russell Group universities, such as the London School of Economics and Bath University, as well as support opportunities from Trinity Hall College in Cambridge.

It would enable Abbeyfield to work with Waitrose on healthy eating and cooking projects, and with the John Lewis Partnership on leadership at all levels in the school, from the student council to middle and senior leaders.

Mr Nicholson said: “I believe all things flow from a child being happy at school and this feeling is the cornerstone of a successful education at Abbeyfield.

“Through this new vision for the school, we aim for our current and future pupils to be jacks of all trades and masters of many, by providing a balance of academic, creative and sporting opportunities.”

He said there were no plans for staff cuts or salary changes.

Mr Nicholson said: “TEF is very value-driven and likes working with the community.”

Chairman of governors Michele Blain said: “We chose TEF as they work in partnership with schools and bring with them great expertise in the field of school development, as well as support from a wide range of national institutions.

“TEF values the importance of schools maintaining their distinctive character and the governing body believes this is important.”

TEF’s other schools include Clarendon Academy in Trowbridge.

There will be a period of consultation and, subject to ministerial approval, the school will become an academy within four months. Abbeyfield was rated as good in every category of the new Ofsted framework in September 2012.

Hardenhuish and Sheldon schools in Chippenham both converted to academies last year.

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