A PRIMARY academy was given a high-class seal of approval when it was officially opened by a duchess.
Holley Park Academy in Washington invited the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Jane Percy, along to perform the opening ceremony.
The school became the first in Washington to convert to academy status in July this year, giving it more control over its own affairs and budget.
The duchess was given a tour of the school and listened to songs by the choir, before cutting a ribbon to symbolise the reopening of the Oxclose school.
Glenda Wood, business manager at the Ayton Road school, said: “As part of a handwriting competition pupils in Year 5 wrote to The Duchess of Northumberland inviting her to open our new academy.
“The duchess had previously visited Holley Park six years ago to open the school’s willow garden.”
Headteacher Sharon Wright and the chairman of governors David Haw took Lady Percy around the school and introduced her to the children.
Ms Wood said: “The duchess said she was very impressed by the handwritten letters from the pupils and was only too pleased to accept the invitation. She wished everyone involved with the academy every success for the future.”
It took several months of working with professionals for staff at the former Holley Park Primary School to complete the conversion to an academy.
Gelnda Wood added: “There was a lot of support for the conversion to academy status. It gives the school more autonomy and greater control over the budget, allowing us to buy in the services that our children need.”
She said becoming an academy did not mean any changes for the pupils, just greater flexibility for the school.
Although they are retaining some of the services that the local authority provides, Holley Park is now out-sourcing other services to local companies so they can get better value for money.
The school uniform has remained the same, with the new logo of Holley Park Academy being phased in to avoid parents having extra expense and all staff transferred over to the new academy under the same pay and conditions.