THE boss of the education trust chosen to run Peterborough’s first Free School has pledged to improve exam grades in the city.
Greenwood Academies Trust has been selected to run the new school, which is set to open on the site of the former Hereward Community College in Reeves Way, Eastfield, Peterborough.
The trust was one of five education providers to apply to run the school, which will be independent of Peterborough City Council control of its finances and curriculum.
Barry Day, chief executive of the Nottingham based trust, outlined plans for the new City of Peterborough Academy, which will open in 2013 at a recent meeting at the site.
The school, which is set to have 900 pupils and a sixth form, will open with just year 7 pupils, and will be one of the first free schools to open in the city.
Mr Day said he was confident the school would be a success when it opens.
“In 2007 Elliot Durham School in Nottingham and St Clements College in Skegness were two of the five worst performing schools in the country, with less than five per cent of pupils gaining five GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths.
“Since we took over at Elliot Durham, 30 per cent of pupils have gained five GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths.
“While we are still waiting for our first set of results at Skegness, we would be disappointed if they were below 40 per cent.
“Our expertise is transforming struggling schools into successful schools, and we aim to do the same here.”
“Peterborough is a hugely interesting project to start, as the school has been mothballed for a long time.
“I know the school was struggling when it closed but we specialise in transforming struggling schools into outstanding ones.
“It is also an interesting project because we are hoping to become one of the first free schools to be match funded by the local authority.”
Mr Day said one of the biggest issues the school would face would be the variety of different languages spoken by pupils in the area.
He said: “The City of Peterborough Academy will specialise in languages, and in our academies across the country we have delivered high level language skills.
“But we look at both aspects of the spectrum, and for pupils who have spoken English for many years we also look at a variety of literacy aspects, and modern languages.
“Our goal is to make all our pupils highly employable, or ready to move onto higher education.
“We are starting with just Year 7 pupils – aged 11 – for a number of reasons.
“We have been told that there is a need for Year 7 spaces in 2013, so we will be filling that need. We also don’t want to pull pupils out from other schools, which is not beneficial to the pupils or the schools.
He added: “It also gives us a chance to recruit teaching and management staff properly.
“The management team will probably be recruited internally from other academies in our group, but we will be looking to recruit teachers and support staff locally.
“By starting with just Year 7 we only need to recruit 15 or so teachers, rather than 100 if we had a full school.”
Councillor John Holdich, the council’s cabinet member for Education, Skills and University, said: “It is a very exciting project, and we have all been impressed with Greenwood.
“They bring an exciting curriculum, and you can see the young people at the schools are highly motivated. “Hereward Community College had some pupils who came up where the reading age was just seven, rather than 11, so Greenwood’s specialism in languages is important.
“For parents, exam results are everything at the end of the day.”