Horncastle’s two secondary schools are set to forge closer links in a groundbreaking partnership that will transform the future of education in the town.
Banovallum School has moved out of Local Authority control and secured Academy status as part of a new ‘umbrella’ organisation that will also include Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School.
Both schools will retain entirely separate identities and stress the pioneering partnership is not a merger.
It is understood the agreement between a school with an open admission policy (Banovallum) and a selective Grammar School (QEGS) is a first for this country.
Banovallum headteacher Nicki Shore said: “It is envisaged that this latest project will secure even greater success and develop opportunities for all students in the area.
“While the schools will retain their identities, this is ground-breaking for our community and offers an exciting future of quality provision, collaboration and partnership in our town.
“An umbrella trust has been formed to enable joint working which is truly innovative and one of the only models of its kind in the country.”
The two headteachers - Ms Shore (Banovallum) and Heather Payne (QEGS) - will continue in their posts.
The schools will also retain separate teaching staff and governing bodies while QEGS will continue as a selective grammar school.
The agreement - which has the support of key officials at Lincolnshire County Council - follows several months of talks between leading figures from both schools.
Ms Shore confirmed the development in an exclusive interview with the News.
She added: “Banovallum School has entered a new phase this week with the announcement that it has converted to become an Academy.
“Furthermore, in a groundbreaking move, it’s new status serves to cement the links with Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School.
“In a period of political and economic uncertainty, the headteacher and governors at Banovallum wish to secure the freedom to plan and provide quality education in a community based setting in a way which maximises the opportunities for our students to achieve the highest standards.”
Ms Shore went on to stress that there were no plans to change the Banovallum name, or day to day running of the school. The school will also retain its current uniform.
She added: “The Governors and leadership team are simply taking advantage of the opportunity to pursue their ambitions for the provision of education.”
There has been friendly rivalry between pupils for many years.
However, the schools have enjoyed what Ms Shore describes as a ‘positive partnership’ going back many years to include developments like securing ‘Science Specialist’ status.
Ms Shore confirmed Banovallum’s funding would continue to come from central Government but stressed Academy status would give the school more autonomy regarding a number of issues, including finance.
She said the ‘partnership’ would provide the schools with more power when it came to negotiating deals for equipment and supplies.
She also said she would have ‘no hesitation’ turning to her counterparts at QEGS for help and advice.
Ms Shore added “I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not a merger. In fact, parents and pupils will not notice any difference to daily school life.”
In the longer-term, Ms Shore said she hoped the agreement would help both schools expand and cope with a likely increase in the town’s population.
It is also thought the deal could boost the provision for pupils at Banovallum to move into sixth form education at QEGS.
Some Banovallum pupils do join QEGS’ high performing sixth form but many others have to travel to Lincoln or Boston to further their education - often leaving parents with a £400-a-year travel bill.
Emily Walton (16), deputy head girl at Banovallum, said students were excited about Academy status.
She said: “I am sure it will make a huge difference, particularly in years to come. It will provide the opportunity for the school to develop.
“There is some rivalry with QEGS but it is mainly on the sports field and it is friendly.”