Local parents have welcomed St. Ursula’s decision to take steps to seek academy status, saying that it gives “new hope” to the campaign for a local school for BS9, and will safeguard the school and the education it provides for not just years, but decades to come.
The announcement was made on behalf of the governors and head of the school, by the new Chair of Governors, Charlotte Leslie.
The Governors and head are currently talking to existing parents of the school, explaining why the decision has been taken, and what it will mean for their children.
An academy is an independent school, which accepts state-funding. The move follows two other independent schools in Bristol successfully moving to academy status.
This move provides new hope for the campaign to get a new community secondary school for North West Bristol. Over the summer, Charlotte worked with local parents to start the campaign group “Parents Voice”, and later put the group in contact with the national organisation “New Schools Network”, which helps parents take steps to trigger the set up of a new school.
Recently, Charlotte Leslie approached St. Ursula’s to understand the school’s plans for the future, and has helped the board of Governors in their decision to apply for academy status. She was recently elected Chair of Governors to lead the project.
Responding to existing parent’s questions and concerns, chair of Governors, Charlotte Leslie said,
” We understand the concerns of existing parents. We have been explaining to them that in these changing economic times, and in the uniquely competitive environment which faces Bristol independent schools, we have been looking at options which can best secure the kind of education and ethos that parents and children have previously enjoyed at St. Ursula’s.
The only responsible response to these changing times was to take action and make a decision to safeguard the education of pupils and the jobs of staff not only for the short term, but for the medium and long term. We wanted to avoid a situation where the school was focusing on its own viability for the next three of four years to come, which could distract from the focus on teaching and learning. So in many ways, this move can be seen as the best way of ‘ changing to stay the same’.”
Most independent schools which have become academies are making the transition with one year of new intake, so that existing pupils move through the school in their class set-up, while the first year intake is a new academy intake. The main change to existing pupils is that parents with children at the school stop paying fees.
It is hoped that if the process goes smoothly and quickly, the school might be able to open its doors as a new academy in September 2011, otherwise the likely date is 2012.
Commenting on the process ahead, Charlotte said,
” There are still a lot of hurdles to over-come, a lot of hard work to put in, and there is no guarantee our bid will be a success. However, I am working daily on this with the head and governors. If this bid is a success, I hope it will go some way to solving the school places crisis in North West Bristol, as well as securing the medium and long term future of this much loved school.
” I have always believed that actions speak louder than words; No amount of leaflets or rhetoric is going to make this happen – it’s going to take real, practical action. We need the support of the local council, central government and the wider community. So now the hard work begins to secure this superb school’s education and ethos in the future of Bristol education and to try to make the dream of so many parents into a reality. Wish us luck! “
Read how the Times Educational Supplement has reported the move HERE
If you would like to be kept in touch with developments, or have any questions or queries, email the school office: Office@St-Ursulas.Bristol.sch.uk marking your email ATTN: Charlotte Leslie.
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If you would like to add your name to the campaign for a new school for North West Bristol, sign the Parents Voice Petition HERE