Academy looking forward to a sparkling future

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There was delight among staff at a junior school after the Department for Education gave the nod for it to become an academy.

Orchards Junior School, in Nelson Road, Goring-by-Sea, Worthing, opened its doors on Thursday (October 1) as part of the Sparkle Multi Academy Trust.

Control of our own destiny was key

Dr Paul Jones, headteacher

Following a consultation with parents, the governing body of the school, which used to be called Orchards Community Middle School, had voted unanimously for conversion in June. But they had to wait for formal notification before making things official.

Headteacher Dr Paul Jones said: “We are delighted that we are now formally going to begin the next phase of Orchards Junior School.”

Business manager Ian Chilvers said: “We’re all just extremely excited because it’s what we’ve wanted for the past six months.”

West Sussex County Council has long supported the government’s policy to encourage schools to become academies in order to raise attainment, and Orchards is now one of 52 academies in the county.

The process, though, has not been a quick one!

Dr Jones and his staff have been waiting since March for the journey to be completed.

The first step saw Orchards granted an academy order by the Secretary of State, which Dr Jones said gave the school confidence it was in a strong position to succeed.

Next came a six-week public consultation, including drop-in sessions to explain the process to parents, and finally a meeting of the governing body. The response to the consultation showed full support from all involved with the school and no opposition from the local community.

Dr Jones said he and his staff had felt “a great sense of satisfaction” as each step was achieved.

Describing to ongoing support of the school community, he added: “A number of parents of both current and former pupils have congratulated us on the conversion and this is consistent with the views expressed by parents during the consultation process that they have full confidence in the leadership of the school.”

When asked why he felt converting to an academy was the best thing to do for both staff and children, Dr Jones said: “Control of our own destiny was key.”

While the newly formed Sparkle Multi-Academy Trust will oversee and govern the school, leaders were determined to retain the familiar structure of Orchards, so it will be business as usual for the children. Dr Jones added: “The children will notice very little difference as we are already very proud of the quality of provision they currently receive.”

Orchards last underwent a full Ofsted inspection in September 2010, when it received the second highest rating of ‘good’. An interim assessment in 2014 said that performance had been sustained – and Dr Jones has no intention of taking his eye off the ball.

He said: “Academy or not, our school improvement plans remain solely focussed on the best outcomes for the children and we believe that the conversion allows us to continue on our current trajectory of improvement.”

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