Suc­cess­ful open­ing months for con­tro­ver­sial free school


THE prin­ci­pal of a con­tro­ver­sial free school is cel­e­brat­ing a suc­cess­ful first halfterm de­spite res­i­dents’ fears.

The Fer­main Academy, for pupils with be­havioural and at­ten­dance prob­lems, opened its doors to 28 pupils – 11 girls and 17 boys – on Septem­ber 1.

Based at the Fer­main Cen­tre on Ox­ford Road, the site of the re­cently closed iMacc Youth Club, the school caused con- cern among res­i­dents be­fore it opened due to fears of an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour as well as traf­fic and park­ing prob­lems.

But Nic Brindle, prin­ci­pal, says the fears have proved un­founded with no com­plaints.

He said: “There were wor­ries be­fore we opened and we wanted to li­aise with the pub­lic then but our hands were tied by the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion so we couldn’t un­til we ac­tu­ally owned the site on Septem­ber 1.

“We led an open evening with about 40 peo­ple there. There was some an­i­mos­ity at first but all the res­i­dents left ex­tremely happy.

“We have opened the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with them and they know if they have any is­sues they can just drop us an email.”

He added: “Peo­ple had this worry about an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour and yes, there are those stu­dents but we are here spe­cially to pre­vent them from be­com­ing like that.

“If ev­ery school made sure that ev­ery stu­dent achieves and be­comes part of the com­mu­nity it would be great for the coun­try.”

He said that the school had not caused the feared park­ing and ac­cess prob­lems either, due to the very low num­ber of stu­dents com­pared to other schools.

Speak­ing about the pupils’ progress so far, he said: “For some it’s a shock to the sys­tem as they’re not used to ed­u­ca­tional set­tings but we have 40 per cent of Year 11s sit­ting higher tier A to C grade GCSEs which is incredible.

“And we have an at­ten­dance rate just shy of 94pc when some had 17pc at­ten­dance be­fore com- ing here. The stu­dents are feel­ing quite pos­i­tive. One par­ent whose daugh­ter has al­ways strug­gled with ed­u­ca­tion summed it up when she said she saw her play­ing rounders and felt like cry­ing as she’d never see her so en­gaged in some­thing.”

He added that there was still ‘lots to do’ but that the foun­da­tions were ‘solid’.

He said: “We have es­tab­lished a very good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with res­i­dents and all the lo­cal schools are sup­port­ing us.”

●● Fer­main Academy and, left, its prin­ci­pal Nic Brindle

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