LinkedIn tells me it’s been three years since I started working on the project management to set up the Archer Academy. It must be about four years then since a raggle-taggle group of parents first met to discuss how we could get our local schools and our local authority to address a chronic shortage of local comprehensive education.
We didn’t know each other, knew little about the finer workings of the education system and had no desire or intention of setting up a school.
Our hand was somewhat forced by the realisation that: a) no one was willing or able to give us what we wanted and b) that there was huge local support for a local school for local children.
We became reluctant free schoolers and the Archer Academy was born.
We’ve come a long way in a short space of time and it’s incredible to think that the school has become a feature of local life in East Finchley so quickly. It’s just there. Part of our community landscape.
We’ve protected a community asset from development – ensuring that it will benefit local people in perpetuity rather than being turned into houses or flats. Creating fantastic new sport and recreation facilities that in just a few weeks local people will be able to use. I can’t wait for my first game of football on our new pitch!
And my eldest child will start school in September too – along with 149 other children from our local primary schools.
Regardless of controversy and debate about free schools – and I remain sceptical about the policy overall – I am proud of what we have achieved in establishing the Archer Academy. I have no doubt that is has helped to address unmet need in local educational provision that thousands of children will benefit from over the years ahead. But more than that, it has strengthened our community and generated significant social value.
Connections have been made within the community – bridging and bonding – which did not exist before. High quality sport and leisure facilities have been created which are open for community use outside of school hours and in numerous ways the school community – our students, parents, staff and governors – are contributing to local community life. Whether it’s collecting clothes for local refugees, or performing at the East Finchley Festival. We are working in partnership with numerous local businesses, charities and community groups – special mentions here for the ever wonderful GLH and Dan & De Carlo’s – to, in the words of D&D’s Danny Gates “…create one big family within the local community.”
Three years. It feels like a lifetime. Time flies…