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