Staff and students at Sheldon School in Chippenham are celebrating after being given academy status.

Headteacher Gerard MacMahon says the school’s new status will protect it from educational cuts, even slightly increasing its £8.5 million budget over the next year.

Sheldon, judged to be ‘outstanding’ in all areas in its 2008 Ofsted report, was the first in England to have a full vote of all staff before becoming an academy.

Mr MacMahon said: “Academy status means that money which used to go to Wiltshire Council to provide services for our pupils now comes directly to Sheldon.

“We are able to replace the local authority services at a fraction of the cost, so there has been a significant gain to the school.”

He said that the new status had allowed Sheldon to escape threatened local authority cuts in funding for sixth form pupils, which would have hit Sheldon particularly hard because it has the largest sixth form in Wiltshire.

Outstanding schools were given the opportunity to apply for academy status last September.

Chair of governors Jeremy Hilton said: “We have based our new school constitution on two charters that enshrine our school values and protect our employees.

“This reassured our teachers that we were looking to build on our strengths and not change our ethos.”

Sheldon’s charters are to uphold to value the individual needs of pupils and to maintaining a broad, balanced and appropriately challenging curriculum.

Academies are state-maintained independent schools set up with the help of outside sponsors.

The change affects the way in which the school is financed and gives it independence from the local authority.

However, admissions arrangements are unchanged and it will remain a comprehensive school for children aged 11 to 18.