BOLTON’S first academy has officially opened.

And the new head of the controversial school has pledged: “We will deliver.”

Essa Academy was formally opened yesterday to replace Hayward School in Great Lever.

Bolton’s academy programme has faced severe criticism in recent months from opponents such as teaching unions, who feared private-sector involvement in state-funded schools.

The politics surrounding the opening of the academy was forgotten as staff and the new leadership looked to the future.

A celebratory dinner was held for the school staff and the new headteacher, Showk Badat, who introduced himself to teachers before meeting the children who will return to today.

Mr Badat, who attended Deane Grammar School, said: “This is such a special opportunity for me to return to Bolton, where my family still lives, and give something back to the community which helped develop me.

“This school will deliver. The responsibility lies with us as this is now a state-funded independent school and we will dispel any fears that people had about this school becoming an academy.”

He added: “I will be working with outstanding colleagues and will be looking forward to a new build leading to better conditions and a ‘can do’ ethos, which will raise standards.”

Deputy headteacher Jenny Coleman said: “This is a very exciting time for the school and an opportunity to build on the progress already made, transform education and have a new vision for the school, and make it a vibrant innovative centre of learning.”