Brymore agriculture boarding school to become academy
An agricultural boarding school for boys is to become an academy with support from Bridgwater College.
Brymore School in Cannington will leave county council control, allowing it more freedom to set its curriculum and term dates.
Headteacher Mark Thomas added the "biggest thing" was allowing them to admit younger students from September 2014.
Bridgwater College will help Brymore in areas such as leadership and budgeting.
At the moment the school admits boys from Year Nine, at the age of 13 years old. By becoming an academy, students will be able to join from the age of 11 in Year Seven.
In the past, Brymore has struggled to meet government targets due to the type of students it attracts and the specialist agricultural courses it runs.
As a result, three years ago, the Department for Education advised the school to become an academy due to its academic results.
Mr Thomas said: "We were in a fortunate position in that we had quite a big choice in what we decided and it was us who wanted to become an academy because we had been working well with [Bridgwater College].
"We also wanted to take younger students and by becoming an academy that was something we could do much much quicker."'Report bullying'
The school said it hoped that by having students for an extra two years it would improve its academic record.
In 2010, a county council report into the school found there was a "bullying culture" in which teachers condoned older boys pushing and punching younger ones.
As a result of the report, staff received extra training, a new acting head teacher was appointed and boys were encouraged to report bullying.
Currently, the school has about 150 students and said it hoped in two years' time to increase to about 265.
But the change will leave the county council with a £300,000 debt, which it must pay off when a school converts to an academy.
The sum equates to 0.14% of the council's annual schools budget.
The £300,000 debt was partly due to unpaid boarding fees and a drop in government funding.
Somerset County Council says it feels positive about Bridgwater College working with Brymore.