Headteacher Jan Hatherell is looking forward to her first year in charge at Chippenham’s Hardenhuish School, which is one of only a few to boast the new academy status.

From this term the school is classed as a high performing specialist academy in the first wave of 32 outstanding academies, a flagship initiative of the new coalition government.

Mrs Hatherell, who has been at the school for 21 years, ten of those as its deputy, said: “It is terrifically exciting and really lovely to be the head of a new specialist academy.

“Essentially the school will stay the same, for example the admissions process will be unaffected by our new status, and our insistence on high standards of behaviour and academic work will remain.

“We will also continue our commitment to the local family of schools offering support and activities for pupils and teachers through our specialist school outreach work.”

During the summer term secondary schools that had earned an outstanding Ofsted report were given the opportunity to apply for academy status, which means they are free from local authority control and have the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff.

They can also choose not to follow the National Curriculum and can set the lengths of terms and teaching hours.

Mrs Hatherell was fully involved, as deputy head, in the application process with former headteacher Colin Smith, governors, teachers and parents.

She said: “Hardenhuish is not the type of school to go into something like this without a full consultation, and that was carried out during the summer term. We are now looking forward to the opportunities afforded by increased flexibility to secure the resourcing of the school for the future.”

While applying for the post of headteacher Mrs Hatherell and the other candidates were interviewed by students – something she thinks makes Hardenhuish the school it is.

“The children got to ask us questions one lunchtime,” she said. “And they were interested in the things that affect them like uniforms, the school council and activities.

“They were very perceptive and quick to come back with follow-up questions.

“This is what marks Hardenhuish out. We will always make sure the community is very involved in what we do.”