Hemel Hempstead school helps set up new free school in Hertfordshire

The school is due to open in September 2022

By Holly Patel
Thursday, 30th July 2020, 3:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th July 2020, 3:44 pm

The Department for Education has announced that the James Marks Academy, which is being set up by a school in Hemel Hempstead, has been approved to open in Hertfordshire.

The new free school, which is being set up by Roman Fields - an outstanding provision that serves a similar cohort of pupils with complex needs - is due to open in Welwyn in September 2022.

The James Marks Academy will be made up of Roman Fields and James Marks Academy, and will serve pupils with high anxiety and mental health issues; those pupils for whom a traditional SEMH school would not be deemed appropriate.

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Trevor Orchard, headteacher for Roman Fields

Trevor Orchard, headteacher at Roman Fields, spearheaded the Roman Fields project team.

He said: "I believe this is a really important step for SEN in Hertefordshire.

"We will have a local response that will provide an alternative to the significant number of out of county placements which will enable pupils to remain in their family home, whilst accessing the education and support they need to flourish as economically active and happy adults.

"The new free school will extend our reach to cover the entire county, due to its central location in Welwyn, and complement the work on our existing site in Hemel.

"The new opportunities this school will bring will also enable high quality teaching and support practitioners to advance their careers within Hertfordshire.

"The award of the free school is testament to the hard work and commitment of my colleagues (including our Governors) and to the support received from parents, pupils and the county SEND team.

"It has truly been a collaborative effort and I know they share my excitement that the James Marks Academy will join Roman Fields in a trust providing high quality, holistic support for those with the greatest need.

"The James Marks Academy and Trust is named after a former pupil. James joined our existing provision, Roman Fields, as an anxious pupil with complex needs and a negative experience of school.

"During his time with us, we watched him grow into a confident, kind, resilient and enthusiastic young man.

"In April 2018, James sadly lost his long battle against a brain tumour; a battle he fought with incredible fortitude which demonstrated his strength of character and absolute passion for life.

"Even when things were incredibly difficult for James, he looked forward to returning to Roman Fields whenever he came out of hospital, and always turned up with the widest of smiles and a happy greeting for all.

"It therefore seemed fitting that the new school and trust should be named in memory of this remarkable young man, who had all of the

personal traits the new school will be looking to foster.

Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Hertfordshire County Council is delighted that Roman Fields is to set up the new free school which will enable us to support more young people with additional needs to thrive in a supportive and safe environment.

"We are supporting this project through the provision of the site together with some funding.

"The school will be known as The James Marks Academy and we welcome it to join the family of Hertfordshire schools.”

When full, the school will offer places for 60 pupils, all of whom will have an EHC plan; some may also have additional diagnoses such as ASC.

The majority of this cohort will have sensory issues, so they will be accommodated in a new building that will be specifically designed to take account for this.

Unity Howard, Director of New Schools Network, said: “I am delighted Roman Fields has been approved to open, joining 36 other special and alternative provision free schools that were approved today.

"These new schools will offer some of our most vulnerable young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, the opportunity to access a high quality education that is tailored to their needs.

"Special and alternative provision free schools are among the most innovative and successful providers, and it is fantastic news for local families that that they will be able to access this


"On behalf of the entire team at New Schools Network, I pay tribute to Roman Fields for their tireless work throughout the application phase.

"We look forward to supporting this cohort of 37 free schools as they prepare to open.”