The headteacher at Duffryn High School is hoping that its proposed change of name to John Frost School will be the start of a new era. CIARAN KELLY looks at what's in a school's name - and how changing it can change its future.

SO much history and tradition is attached to a school’s name, uniting both students and teachers under one longstanding banner.

Whether it is representing the school in sport or witnessing that name upon entering and leaving school everyday, students take great pride in that banner. It’s a matter of legacy.

In maintaining the traditions and standards of the school, hundreds of students are following in the footsteps of their predecessors – constantly hearing of previous achievements and previous records obtained in the school’s name.

Yet, upon significant changes to infrastructure, some schools have decided that a change of name can usher in a new era.

This has been particularly evident in Newport, where a number of schools have found that there have been many benefits to rebranding in recent years.

In 2012, Hartridge High School became Llanwern High School. The three crumbling buildings of the old lower, middle, and upper schools were demolished and one central hub with a glass foyer was created at a cost of around £29million.

The students were even involved in the dawning of this new era and chose the smart black blazers, complete with the alder tree logo, to replace the old uniform of polo t-shirts and jumpers.

Far from superficial measures, the school was the most improved in Wales, in terms of GCSE results for 2013, and has been voted the V Awards Education Establishment of the year for two years running.

Andy Knight, director of business at Llanwern High School, said that the new name has heralded a new era for the school.

He said: “Sometimes, you just need a new name to freshen everything up. Hartridge was fantastic and it was a really difficult decision, as a lot of heritage was involved.

“The name change has been really good for us. We did not want to lose our heritage, but the new school is completely different and we’ve incorporated more of the community with a wider catchment.

“Looking back, it was the right decision but the past is still a central point of the new school.”

He added: “Wearing the new blazers, students puff their chest out with pride and perceptions have changed.

“People are judging the school now with what it’s actually doing. The old name could have been a barrier to entry and people would have still associated that building with the name.

“The message is getting out there.”

John Griffiths, AM for Newport East, said that Llanwern has proved an example for all schools undergoing dramatic refurbishment.

He said: “When a new school is built or there is a major refurbishment, it is important to recognise that fact with a new name or image. It is a positive move.

“At Llanwern, there’s a fabulous new school with new cultural facilities. It’s a really, really good school and it needed a new name and image to recognise this change.

“The improvement in the general life of the school since is very impressive. It’s very positive and there’s been an improvement in standards.

“When you arrive at the name, you understand the tradition of the area and take it forward with the new school. It’s about marrying the two.

“I’m not surprised that other schools have followed suit. This is an example to be looked at across Wales.”

As Llanwern have proved, change can be a good thing and Newport High School is yet another school to have benefited from a fresh approach.

With a new £28million building opening in 2009, Bettws High School became Newport High School. Similarly to Llanwern, the students, staff, and governors were all involved in the decision to rebrand the school’s name, logo, and uniform.

Newport High head teacher, Karyn Keane, said that the school has continued to improve each year, with 2013’s Estyn report a particularly proud highlight.

She said: “The report highlighted an inspiring and caring atmosphere and commented that at all key stages, performance has improved considerably since the last inspection.

“Estyn felt that teaching and learning were very good features of our practice.

“Most importantly, they highlighted that pupils were proud of their school.”

This is the kind of positive effect that Duffryn High School is banking on, having announced just two weeks ago that it is to rebrand from September 2016.

From September 2016, following a request from the school’s governors, the school is to be renamed John Frost School to coincide with the school’s £17 million redevelopment, which will include the creation of a Welsh-medium language school on the site.

After discussing naming it after different an area of the city, governors decided it was more appropriate to name it after John Frost. Mr Frost was the leader of the Chartist Rising in Newport in 1839, which saw 22 protestors shot dead for demanding the right to vote.

Jon Wilson, who has been head teacher at Duffryn High for 11 years, said that the school would not have changed its name had it not been for the new development.

He said: “We’re very proud of our traditions and achievements but, in changing times, we felt this was a chance to launch another phase in the school’s history.

“With the name, we wanted to lead in terms of tradition and not just follow. We looked at the city’s history, particularly with the Chartists.

“We looked at the original six points [of the People’s Charter] and five of those are cornerstones of British democracy. They stood for what the school stands for: the right for ordinary people to seize the moment.

“Ordinary people wouldn’t be in state schools if it were not for the battle of groups like the Chartists. It’s irrelevant if there’s no direct link – John Frost is a famous citizen of Newport.”

He added: “We would never have considered it if Duffryn High had not ceased to exist.

“I’ve been head teacher for 11 years and pride is very important. It’s about changing the name for the right reasons and accepting that it’s going to cause a debate.

“But, anything that causes a debate in the city in a sensible way is a good thing.”

Newport City Council’s cabinet member for education and young people, councillor Debbie Wilcox, said that a new name offers schools the opportunity to build on what has already been achieved.

She said: “For there to be changes in the uniform and name, there has to be significant changes in the building and its structure.

“When schools change substantially, there is an opportunity to make other changes.

“Everyone needs to refresh and it’s a chance to build on what’s been achieved. We look at history to learn from it and the only way is up.

“It’s about reflecting and cherishing traditions but moving into a new era with greater success.

“It shows things are different and underlines this difference.”