Village school becomes first primary in Furness to gain academy status

The Westmorland Gazette: Headteacher Lynn Smolinski and deputy Graham Carrick with pupils Henry Bangham and Jess Evans Headteacher Lynn Smolinski and deputy Graham Carrick with pupils Henry Bangham and Jess Evans

A VILLAGE school has become the first primary in Furness to gain academy status.

Penny Bridge CofE School, near Greenodd, has severed its ties with Cumbria County Council and become a church academy.

It means its directors, who all promote a Christian ethos, assume overall responsibility of the running the school while headteacher Lynn Smolinski is in charge from day-to-day.

Mrs Smolinski, who has been at the helm for eight years, said she was ‘delighted’.

"It has taken a lot of hard work from all the staff and we are now looking forward to what the future holds," she said.

"It is quite pioneering to be the first primary school in Furness to have this status but we know it will help our pupils excel."

Academy status means the school, recently judged as outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted, will have more freedom in deciding its budget.

It also unlocks new avenues of funding from the Department for Education and will provide the 105 pupil school with the opportunity to set its own curriculum.

Penny Bridge is considered a ‘lone convertor’ - meaning it has no ties to other local primary or secondary schools.

"But we do have a duty to support those that may need our help," added Mrs Smolinski.

"It also means we have more responsibility and are much more accountable, especially financially. We are the fall guys if something does go wrong."

The school has also recently submitted planning permission for a new classroom.

Mrs Smolinski explained that it will allow pupil numbers in classes to stay low: "The new classroom is to cope with current numbers - we are not looking to expand. Ideally there would be a maximum of 24 in each class.

"We are a village school serving the village and will remain that way."

Deputy headteacher Graham Carrick, whose role was created in the move to become an academy, added: “It gives us more freedom and lets us run the school in the way we want.”

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