A high-achieving school has finally become an academy after a long battle with its unionised staff.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) held ten days of strikes at Connaught School for Girls, in Leytonstone, last year in protest at the plans.

Headteacher Ann Betts said the move was necessary to prevent Waltham Forest Council from merging it with another school, and she also said Connaught would be £97,000 better off as a result.

But the council insisted there were no plans for a merger and disputed the claims about the alleged financial benefits.

The majority of governors were unconvinced by the council's assurances and twice voted to approve academy status.

The Department of Education has now rubber stamped the plans and on Friday Connaught officially gained the new status.

Academies are independent of council control and receive all their funding direct from the government.

The NUT has expressed concern that under this new independence there are no guarantees for staff terms and conditions, and claimed that academies suck funding away for resources shared by local authority controlled schools.

But Ms Betts said: “We are not changing our name, our curriculum or more importantly our ethos.

“By becoming an academy we are able to determine our own destiny and remain as a small successful girls’ school.

“In recently published performance data, Connaught School for Girls achieved the highest figure for 5 A* - C GCSE grades in the borough.

“However, we are not complacent and this year we have many plans to maximise pupil progress such as improving literacy and numeracy levels, tracking pupils to prevent underachievement   and supporting pupils` with regard to safety and behaviour.”

Waltham Forest NUT secretary Steve White said staff were “very disappointed”.

He added: “This decision was based on assumptions despite assurances from many people at the council that there were no merger plans.

“The staff are not happy but they would be happier if Ann Betts agrees to full trade union recognition, but I haven't had those assurances yet.”