ONE of Darlington’s highest performing schools is set to become more independent after announcing plans to convert to an academy.

Hurworth School could gain academy status as early as April next year after the board of governors gave the go-ahead for the plans on Friday.

Under academy status, Hurworth, which was classified by Government inspectors Ofsted as outstanding on its last inspection, will get total control over its budget and curriculum and will be completely independent from the local education authority (LEA).

Money will go directly to the school from the Government, rather than through the LEA, allowing them control over what it is spent on.

As a top-performing school, Hurworth was invited to convert to an academy in July. In September, the school began a consultation process of staff, pupils, parents, the council, the LEA and the local community.

Following feedback, the board of governors made a unanimous vote in favour of beginning the process.

The school will now formally give notice to the Department for Education about the intention of converting to academy status.

The school will receive a grant is to pay for legal costs which will be incurred during the conversion process.

Once the school has prepared everything to enable the conversion, a full governing body meeting in spring next year will discuss the issue again to formally approve the submission of the plans.

Headteacher Dean Judson said feedback from everyone consulted had been overwhelmingly positive.

“We would be totally independent of the LEA, but that doesn’t preclude us from being in the family of schools in Darlington. We will still be very much a part of this and willing to share knowledge and good practice.”

He said the school was hoping academy status may attract capital funding from the Government to the school, which is much in need of renovation, but it was too early to tell if this would happen.

“The government haven’t stated what their policy is ion capital funding. They are very keen for as many schools as possible to convert to academies. It is a leap of faith. We are hoping following this process and becoming an academy will attract funding but we don’t know.”

He added the character and ethos of the school would stay the same.