Academy to open sixth form as late headteacher's dream comes to fruition

The dream of a former headteacher to introduce a sixth form into her school has been kept alive as the new development gets set to undergo its official opening.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 4:26 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2016, 5:28 pm
Head Paula Williams of Whitburn Academy died of pneumonia, Monday January 3 2011 25/06/2010 Photographer: SN FILE PIC

Paula Williams’ vision was to turn the local authority controlled Whitburn C of E Comprehensive into an academy complete with a sixth form.

However, tragically Miss Williams died on January 3, 2011, just days before the top-performing former comprehensive school opened as an academy.

On Wednesday, the school will officially open the sixth form development in an event that will stand as a testament to her vision.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely and chair of the Church of England’s National Board of Education, will perform the opening at the school.

Whitburn C.E. Academy, which was judged to be an outstanding school by Ofsted, became an Academy in 2011 and Chair of Governors Jean Mulley said: “It had long been the vision of our inspirational headteacher, the late Miss Paula Williams, to have a sixth form at Whitburn.

“This vision was shared by the teaching staff, governors and parents. Becoming an Academy gave us the opportunity to develop this vision. Sadly, Miss Williams died the day before we opened as an Academy so was unable to realise her dream.

“However, spurred on by memories of Miss Williams, we decided to go ahead with a sixth form centre. The new Principal, Mr Alan Hardie, was the driving force behind this development, supported by the governing body, staff, parents and pupils.”

The Academy received confirmation of funding for the centre in April 2014 and building work started in September of that year with the project managed by AA Projects.

Jean said: “It was very exciting to watch our vision slowly coming to fruition and we were ready to welcome our first students in September 2015.”

The building is designed for 280 students - 140 each year group. It opened with 105 students on its roll - the original plans anticipated 90 and it was oversubscribed for its 2016 intake.

Jean said: “Our reputation for the sixth form has reached the high reputation of our main school. On the whole, our sixth form curriculum follows more academic lines but we also cater for those students who wish to take up apprenticeships or who want to follow professions by training in the job - we are aware that in this day and age not everyone will have the means to go to university.

“We are absolutely delighted to have achieved Miss Williams’ vision. Mr Hardie, together with governors and senior staff, worked tirelessly to achieve this. Our students are happy, secure and content in their new environment.

“We look forward to the official opening and blessing of our new centre and are delighted that Bishop Stephen is able to come along to perform the opening ceremony.”