JIM PARKER: Iconic centrepiece of huge change
I CAN remember the days when we had an Audley Park School in Torquay. I can also remember the days when the mere mention of Audley Park put the fear of God in some of my then fellow pupils at Torquay Boys' Grammar School.
The grammar school students wore blazers and caps — fair game for some of the Audley Park pupils if the two groups met.
I can also remember the days of Audley Park becoming Torquay Community College, troubled days of special measures and all kinds of problems.
Now Torquay Community College has become Torquay Academy.
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The academy students have their own, distinctive uniforms and their main partners/sponsors in this tremendous and game-changing transition are... the grammar school.
How times have changed massively for the better.
I had the pleasure of having a quick peep inside the academy's new £30million campus the other day.
It is stunning, breathtaking and is the iconic centrepiece of the huge change that has and still is taking place at the school.
It is a change for the good across the piece, for the students, teachers and other members of staff and for its reputation and standing out in the community.
One lady, in particular, has played a huge part in this transformation.
Principal Gill Battye was at the helm during the dark days. She is still at the helm today.
How times must have changed for her as well.
She is a totally unassuming lady who tends to steer well away from the public spotlight.
She never seeks praise and has just got on with the job in hand.
It goes without saying that having the right team around her will have also played a major part in the Torquay Academy success story.
The contribution from the grammar school and, especially, head teacher Roy Pike should not be understated either.
He had just started his career as a history teacher at the grammar school as I was coming towards the end of my school days.
The school used to be located in Torre, next to the old Torquay Technical College.
Mr Pike has led from the front in developing the grammar school since its switch to its current Shiphay Manor home.
It is one of the best grammar schools in the country and Torquay, without a doubt, will become one of the best academies in the country with Gill and Roy and their two organisations working closely together.
Roy's place in the Herald Express/Kitsons Power 50 2012 list of the most influential and powerful people in the Bay was secured for a second term this year.
Gill Battye didn't make the list which won't bother her one jot — but, perhaps, it was something of an oversight.
Mention of the old 'Tech' in Torquay brings me nicely on to another educational institution which has been taken to another level in recent years.
Its future on a crumbling and uninspiring campus at Torre was not exactly rosy.
Then principal Heather Maxwell had a tough task convincing some that change and a new beginning was needed.
South Devon College and its totally inspiring campus at Long Road was the end result.
Heather retired but current principal Stephen Criddle carried on where she left off.
Again surrounded by a brilliant management and support team, Stephen has maintained and further developed the college's outstanding reputation in the world of further education.
It too, is one of the best in the UK.
It was an honour to be invited the college's further education awards at the Riviera International Conference Centre last week.
The smile on the faces of the award-winning students said it for all me.
We have so much to shout about in the Bay when it comes to education.
We have certainly come a long way since those days of having your cap swiped by the kids from Audley Park...
TALKING of the Power 50, the list is a bit of fun which nobody takes really seriously — or do they?
Some people can take it or leave it be they on the list or not.
Others, it would appear, make great play of being named and letting those left out know all about it.
It was interesting to hear Torbay deputy mayor and Torbay In Bloom finals night compere Dave Thomas introduce award presenter and Torbay councillor Alison Hernandez by her Power 50 number the other week.
And Torbay Business Forum chairman Alan Archer was quick to talk about the rankings and who was in and who was out during the forum's annual pie and ale gathering at the Grand Hotel last week.
Another name which didn't make it was Richard Cuming, boss of the Bygones Museum attraction in Torquay and chairman of the English Riviera Attractions Partnership.
He has played a tremendous part in putting the Bay on the tourism map and may just have been another oversight.
Then again, he won't mind will he?