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Making history as new Bury St Edmunds school opens its doors

Pupils at the newly-opened Sybil Andrews Academy
Pupils at the newly-opened Sybil Andrews Academy

Opening a new school on a temporary site is not without its challenges, but for Sybil Andrews Academy principal Andy Prestoe the ‘logistical jigsaw’ has paid off.

On Monday the new Bury St Edmunds secondary school – which forms part of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust – welcomed its first intake of pupils.

Staff at the Sybil Andrews Academy which opened this week at the old St James Middle School site
Staff at the Sybil Andrews Academy which opened this week at the old St James Middle School site

Almost 200 students, dressed smartly in tailored navy blue suits, started the next phase of their educational journey, but at the former St James’ Middle School site they will use until their purpose-built school on Moreton Hall is complete.

Of the current site’s limitations, Mr Prestoe said: “We’ve worked quite hard over the summer with Suffolk County Council, and obviously the Trust, to make sure those limitations aren’t there.

“We’ve upgraded the IT infrastructure within the school; we’ve brought in a new suite of Macintosh computers so pupils can use the photo editing and media software; we’ve made some changes to the food technology area, just to make sure we can deliver the catering facilities, and we knew early on where we would be so we have intentionally planned our curriculum so those areas that will be best served by the facilities in the new build are going to happen after we arrive there.

“It’s been a bit of a logistical jigsaw to make that happen but it looks good and we’re just delighted to be open.”

One of the school's pupils coaching groups
One of the school's pupils coaching groups

Mr Prestoe visited the Moreton Hall site, off Lady Miriam Way, last week and said there had been no change on the given January completion date, although ‘everybody is hoping to get it before’.

He took photographs of the build, which he shared with pupils in an assembly on Monday, generating a lot of excitement about the sporting and science facilities, in particular.

“They’re excited and that’s how they should be because it’s their school at the end of the day,” he said.

Mr Prestoe, a history teacher whose role as principal will earn him a place in the town’s own history books, described starting a school from scratch as ‘a privilege and a massive challenge’ and said hiring ‘excellent’ teachers had been a priority.

One of the schoo''s pupil coaching groups
One of the schoo''s pupil coaching groups

“We were really lucky in terms of the calibre of the staff we’ve appointed and we were able to do that because we had so many apply,” he said, adding that it had allowed the school to choose some ‘fantastic’ mathematicians, scientists and language teachers, among others.

“They are subjects which nationally there’s a very big shortage of, but we didn’t experience that shortage,” he said, attributing the high number of applicants to Bury being the place it is, to having a brand new building and to the school’s philosophy that building confidence, resilience and leadership skills are equally as important as academic success.

“And why does that matter? It matters because we want to make sure pupils have the best quality teachers from the outset,” he said.

There are currently 25 members of staff but, as the school intake grows over the next five years, so too will its teaching staff.

The challenge, however, will be in managing future expansion to ensure the school is able to continue offering quality education with minimal disruption to pupils, something Mr Prestoe is confident he can achieve.

He added: “Residents in the Moreton Hall/Rougham area have been waiting for a school for some time and the sports facilities that will be run in conjunction with the Academy are going to add considerably to the facilities within Bury, which is good for them and good for the town.”

He said there were ‘exciting times ahead’ and welcomed prospective parents, interested in finding out more about the school, to get in touch.

For more details, visit www.sybilandrewsacademy.co.uk


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