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School to be academy with Church link

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

By Joel Cooper

CHURCH ACADEMY: Headteacher of Ilfracombe Arts College Sharon Barnes.

CHURCH ACADEMY: Headteacher of Ilfracombe Arts College Sharon Barnes.

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Ilfracombe Arts College is expected to become North Devon's first church academy secondary school by April.

Headteacher Sharon Barnes said she was very excited about the school's new direction and believed it would have a positive effect for the whole community.

The college had planned to become a voluntary controlled church school, which would have seen it remain under local authority control but with extra support from the Church of England.

But it was decided that becoming a church academy would be the better option.

Mrs Barnes said: "The Government wants all schools to become academies by 2015 and the Department for Education (DfE) said the best route for our college was to become a church academy. This means the school will no longer be under local authority control and will be free to manage its own business with support from the Diocese of Exeter."

Under current legislation schools deemed good or outstanding by Ofsted can apply to become academies with a partner of their choice. Lower-ranked schools are usually given partners.

Although Ilfracombe Arts College's last Ofsted inspection was satisfactory, DfE officials this year rated the college as an emerging school due to its good leadership and strategic planning, allowing it to choose its own academy partner.

Mrs Barnes said the Diocese of Exeter was the obvious choice.

"The church has 200 years of experience in education and a proven track record. There are more outstanding church schools in the UK than any other category. Also, almost all of our feeder primary schools are Church of England schools," she added.

Mrs Barnes said the church's involvement would not impact staff arrangements or the faith of students.

"It will be a school for people of all beliefs and those with no beliefs at all. Our admissions policy will not change.

"All staff will transfer to the academy on the same terms and conditions. There are no plans to change pay scales and I don't foresee any redundancies."

She added: "Students will have a huge say in any changes and we are in the process of setting up a working group which will determine any changes to uniform, school name, logo and prospectus."

The school's board of governors will be disbanded and replaced by 13 directors. But Mrs Barnes said: "Many of the existing governors will transfer over and become directors. They will have a range of skillsets and will represent our whole learning community."

Mrs Barnes said the college would remain an integral part of the community and would continue to honour leasing agreements for use of the school with sports clubs and community organisations.

She added: "The church is interested in high quality, inclusive schools which is very attractive to us. It's an exciting time for the school and the town."

The Right Reverend Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, said he extended a "very warm welcome" to the college.

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