AS Winsford embarks on a new era of learning, children in the town will be looking towards their first week of term with perhaps a little more anxiety than usual.

For the first time, pupils will step foot on unfamiliar ground, under a new leader and some subtle, but significant, changes made to the buildings they are taught in.

And with a new school comes a new head teacher who is happy to talk tough on targets, discipline and school uniform.

“The children will see some differences in the building,” said new Principal, Andrew Kilpatrick, who has years of experience in turning failing schools around.

“We have spent a reasonable amount of money on both sites to make it a better learning environment.

“However our expectation is still that we will have a new building in three years time.”

Among those changes taking place for the start of the new school year are provisions for the new Year 7’s, who along with all Year Eight and Nine classes will be taught from the former Verdin school – newly renamed as ‘Town site’.

“We have redesigned parts of the school to teach in half year groups, taking about 80 children in one class and splitting them up to work in smaller groups,” said Andrew, who’s main focus is to teach the younger children the ‘competencies of learning’, or learning how to learn.

All year Seven, Eight and Nine pupils will be taught at the Academy’s Town site - the former home of Verdin high school, while Year 10 and 11 students will be split across both academy sites including the former home of Woodford Lodge.

“The entire academy will be split into four houses with each one representing all year groups,” added Andrew.

“A lot of our ethos will be about healthy competition – not just sports but we’ll have debating societies, performance groups and music and will be taken on through the house system.

“As long as you have got the will take part there will be something you can excel in.”

Another major investment in the school over the summer, is the development of ‘inclusion zones’ to manage children who misbehave.

“We’ve got to be able to change their attitudes,” added Andrew.

“The first thing is about getting them to come to school, and the second is about getting them to behave.

“You do it by making clear boundaries. We want to minimise exclusion but I should imagine that we will have to do it at times.

“However while a child is excluded you have no control or influence over them.”

The inclusion centres, based at both sites will be staffed by teachers trained to deal with those who continually break the rules.

With years of experience turning around some of the country’s worse performing schools, the new Principal, is already confident that by this time next year 47 per cent of all students will be leaving the Academy with five GCSE grade A–C, including Maths and English.

By 2013, Andrew believes 67 per cent of students can achieve these grades.

“I have absolutely no doubt these targets are easily achievable, we will be performing in the top 10 per cent of similar schools – our aim is to be in the top 50 in three years.”