Brighton’s first academy school officially opened its £28 million new building today (Wednesday 7 September).
The Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) in Falmer opened a year ago in the old Falmer High School buildings on the same site.
Tomorrow the first of the 650 pupils start the new term in their new classrooms with a message of hope ringing out from head teacher Phil Hogg and sponsor Rod Aldridge.
Mrs Hogg said: “The academy is not just about a building.
“It is what goes on inside it that matters.
“Since last September we have all been working very hard to deliver on the national academy agenda, which is to transform.
“Two old buildings, a transition year and being on a building site was a tall ask.
“But I believe we have started to transform with our fantastic examination results this summer.
“Our mission statement for all of us is simple: ‘Believe you can.’
“Now I hope that our students will really begin to believe that they can and we can go on to make further improvements.”
Mr Aldridge said: “On 23 January 2008 I made a telephone call to Councillor Vanessa Brown in her capacity as chair of the children’s services committee.
“I had heard that the previous sponsor of the academy planned for Falmer had withdrawn.
“The purpose of my call was to say that I would be very much like to take on that role.
“For a person born in Brighton, who attended school in the city and worked for the city council, the opportunity to be the sponsor of the city’s first academy has always meant a great deal to me.
“I would to take this opportunity to thank the political leadership of the city council both past and present for their consistent support for the project and the officers team for all their help and co-operation.
“We have built a strong relationship which has also worked well in Portslade, where the new academy opens this week.
“Together we have been successful in unlocking government funding of approaching £40 million for the two academies which I am confident will be instrumental in changing the life chances of those that attend them for generations.”
He paid tribute to the builders Kier for finishing the project on time and to budget.
He said: “At long last the students who attend this academy will have the top class accommodation that they deserve and the facilities to match which are long overdue.
“They will have the most up-to-date technology to assist in learning and sporting facilities of the highest calibre.
“BACA is now an open, bright and positive learning environment to come to each day.
“With hard work and dedication anything is now achievable for our students.
“In this context, I would like to add my congratulation to the students who took GCSE ‘s this year.
“The results were incredible.
“Not only was the percentage improvement the highest in the city but it placed the academy as one of the fastest improving in the country.
“None of this would have been possible without the hard work shown by the teaching staff and I thank them for the dedication they have shown in challenging circumstances since we opened a year ago.”
Mr Aldridge also had a message for the school’s neighbours and the wider community in the Falmer and Moulsecoomb area: “To the community that surrounds the academy, we see this very much as an asset for your use and one which we hope that you are as proud of as we are.
“For too long you have had to settle for second best.
“Well now you have a school at the heart of the community that is one of the best equipped in the city and facilities you can all benefit from.
“If I am honest with myself, we do not yet know how to fully engage with the community.
“What we do know is that for BACA to achieve its full potential we need your help.
“I recognise that there is much still to be done and much history to overcome.
“However, I firmly believe that with a positive approach and hard work we will find the formula that works.
“This can only come from working together as a team to craft the very exciting future that lies ahead.
“As we celebrate the opening of this wonderful new building today, I am really pleased that I made that telephone call.
“I am genuinely excited by what I believe we can achieve at BACA.
“This is a great day. It represents a new beginning and a great opportunity for us all.”