‘Outstanding’ Marylebone secondary school to become academy

Move could see St Marylebone comprehensive receive more funding from central government

A Marylebone secondary school rated ‘outstanding’ in its latest inspection report is set to leave local government control and become an academy.

St Marylebone Church of England High School, a comprehensive for girls aged 11 to 18, is proposing to convert to academy status from September 2011 and is currently consulting residents on the plans.

The move would see the school receive funding direct from central government while it would be open to additional private funding. It would also have more power over its teaching as it would no longer have to follow the National Curriculum.

Chairman of governors Margaret Mountford is eager to distance the changes from those seen when academies are brought in to replace failing schools.

She said the school would be “a new type of academy” based on the government’s policy established last summer to encourage schools classed as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted to become academies.

“I think people always worry about change and one issue that all schools converting to academies face is that the old style academies were brought in to replace failing schools,” she said.

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“Because of that the term academy is tainted in some people’s eyes. I think as more and more schools become academies then that association will go away.

“St Marylebone School has had an outstanding record in recent years, not just in terms of exam results but in the quality of all-round education which it provides for its students.

“This has been achieved not only by the dedication and expertise of our staff, but also by seizing opportunities for change when they have arisen.”

She added: “We feel that we will make better use of the additional funds we will be allocated than is presently made of them, and that we can use the new freedoms to enhance the teaching and learning experience in our school. We see academy status as the next logical step for us to take.”

As well as applying for funding direct from central government, the school would be able to set its own pay scales, terms and conditions for staff.

“We would have more flexibility in how we structure the timetable in Years 7 and 8, with the possibility of different subject groupings and more time for inter-disciplinary projects,” said lawyer and businesswoman Ms Mountford, best known for working as Lord Alan Sugar’s aide in The Apprentice.

“For Years 9 and upwards this is likely to be only of little effect – we have been running a ‘free’ creative Year 9 for some time already, we will still have to teach the requisite courses for GCSEs and other public examinations, and the proposed English Baccalaureate applies to academies as well as to other schools.”

Ms Mountford is also keen to emphasise that a number of elements of school life would not change including its name, admissions policy, religious ethos, and locations on Marylebone High Street and Blandford Street.

The school’s consultation ends on April 5. For more information visit www.stmaryleboneschool.com.