The new school term has heralded the start of a new era for pupils and staff at Prince William School in Oundle.
Following changes from a three to two-tier education system in East Northamptonshire, the school now takes students from Year 7 up to Sixth Form.
A total of 23 new teaching staff have been recruited for the increase in pupil numbers, which have risen from 850 to just under 1,200 students.
All year groups except Year 11 have a new uniform, and while some changes to the site have already taken place for the start of the new term, further building work will be taking place over the next 18 months to cater for the increased numbers.
A number of temporary mobile classrooms will be used until then, although this does not seem to bother the new pupils.
The Northants Telegraph was invited to meet some of the new pupils, who have come from schools including in Polebrook, Aldwincle and Warmington.
They said it was a bit worrying on the first day as it is a big school but they have been made to feel welcome and staff and older pupils have been happy to help them find their way around.
Pupil Jenny Coles said: “The modular rooms are really nice, we go in there quite a lot.
“It’s really nice and modern, they don’t feel like mobiles.
“They feel like a proper classroom.”
Fellow pupil Rhianna Overton admitted that the first day was a bit worrying as it’s a big school, but said: “All the girls in our class are best friends.
“We feel like a community in our class.”
Young sportsman Peter Murdock is certainly enjoying his new surroundings, and said: “We are doing contact rugby, I love it.”
Arlo Franklin agreed that it was slightly daunting on the first day, but said they had settled in by the end of the first week.
Duncan Mills, who is managing director of the EMLC Academy Trust which sponsors the academy, said the county council had ‘gone out on a limb’ with the decision to change the education system in East Northamptonshire, but he felt it was for all the right reasons.
He added: “The drive for it is getting the educational outcomes for this area up.
“This is now an 11 to 18 school.
“We would like people across the area to realise that when they are making applications for secondary school, Prince William is now an option.” He said they will take pupils from across East Northamptonshire, but also from Peterborough.
Cllr Heather Smith, the county council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said the change had been a massive undertaking for the authority and there had been a lot of opposition to the disposal of certain sites, but she added: “All of this is about improving academic achievement for the children and making sure their life chances are much better than they were.”
East Northamptonshire councillor for the Thrapston Lakes ward, Wendy Brackenbury, said: “I’ve had really good feedback from Thrapston.”
Senior members of staff have been travelling on the bus to ensure all pupils are getting to and from school ok and to allay any fears parents had with the new routine.
Headteacher Mark Taitt said the older pupils have embraced the changes and he and his staff have been working hard to make the transition as seamless as possible for all involved.
Northamptonshire County Council is investing about £22million in building new facilities, refurbishing buildings and expanding schools affected by the changes.
The recent changes to schools in East Northamptonshire are as follows:
- Prince William School has changed from an upper school for 13 to 18-year-olds to a secondary school for 11 to 18-year-olds
- Glapthorn has changed from a lower school for four to nine-year-olds to a primary school for four to 11-year-olds
- Kings Cliffe Endowed has changed from a lower to a primary school and moves to new build premises on the Kings Cliffe site of the former middle school
- Nassington has changed from a lower to a primary school
- Polebrook has changed from a lower to a primary school
- Titchmarsh has changed from a lower to a primary school
- Trinity has changed from a lower to a primary school
- Warmington has changed from a lower to a primary school
- Oundle Primary has changed from a lower to a primary school and moves to Oundle & Kings Cliffe Middle School site
- Thrapston Primary has changed from a lower to a primary school