Archer Academy new headteacher: ‘My free school is like any other secondary’

Lucy Harrison is the new headteacher of Archer Academy. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Lucy Harrison is the new headteacher of Archer Academy. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The corridors and classrooms of Archer Academy’s £14m new building still have a distinctive ‘new school’ feel to them one week since 450 pupils first walked through the doors.

And the complex in Stanley Road, East Finchley, is not the only new addition to the Barnet free school.

Former deputy head Lucy Harrison has taken over from founding headteacher Mick Quigley, and she is committed to overseeing even more changes on the school’s horizon.

Archer Academy is already looking to build another campus so it can open a sixth-form in time for its current Year 9 pupils to join in 2018.

“We want to ensure we have the provision to take our students all the way from Year 7 to sixth form so we can meet the needs of all our students,” said Miss Harrison, 36, of Muswell Hill.

Her vision is to inspire creativity in pupils while maintaining academic rigour, something which is reflected in the eclectic range of subjects on offer for children.

Mandarin, classics, Italian, Latin and photography can all be studied from the age of 13 in Year 9 because the school opts to start preparing youngsters for their GCSEs a year early.

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It is just one of the ways the schools uses its controversial free school “freedoms” as it is not under the control of a local authority.

But Miss Harrison is keen to reassure parents that in most respects, the school is just like any other.

“We follow the National Curriculum, because we see that as a minimum entitlement for our students,” she said. “We are a free school but we are also quite simply a local secondary school with a wish to provide an incredible education for young people.” Next year, the school’s Year 10s will move back to its first campus at the old Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute building in Beaumont Close, East Finchley.

The new complex at Stanley Road will then serve as the lower school and will be home to Years 7, 8 and 9.

It offers pupils state-of-the-art drama, music and recording studios, as well as an all-weather pitch and sports centre.

It was built on the site of the Stanley Road playing fields in a £3.5million deal with Barnet Council. The facilities can also be used by the community.

Running a school on multiple sites would be a daunting task for most new headteachers, but Miss Harrison said she felt confident in taking on the challenge as she has only ever taught at campus schools.

Miss Harrison began in teaching at Cannock Chase School in Staffordshire as a history and citzenship teacher. After five years, she then moved to Hertswood Academy in Borehamwood, where she rose through the ranks to become assistant headteacher.

She then joined Archer Academy in 2013 as deputy headteacher.

Of why she joined the school, she said: “I was aware of the campaign for a free school here and I felt that its vision matched my own in terms of education. There are not many opportunities to start something right from the beginning and I wanted to work in the heart of a community.”

The school’s new building is due to be officially opened on Monday, October 5 by Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 gold medals over the course of her career.