Academy applications for two schools

A newly-formed education trust could hold the key for two struggling schools branded “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors.

Hockwold and Methwold Community School in Methwold, which was last month placed in special measures, and Hammond’s High School in Swaffham, which was issued with a 12-month notice to improve, are now both seeking approval to become academies, led by the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT).

The trust believes it can turn both around within 12 months, and aims to bring them up to an “outstanding” standard in the not too distant future.

Chief executive of ATT, Ian Cleland, said it was early days but added the aim was to share best practice between both schools. Specialisms, green policies and the move from primary to secondary education would be of particular focus, he said.

“Obviously the first aim is to get Hammond’s out of its category and Methwold out of special measures,” Mr Cleland added. “It should take about 12 months to do that.

“To some extent I’m talking in broad terms until we really get involved in the project management process. Fundamentally though, an academy is an independent state school which means the decision- making is devolved down to the locality of the school.

“Accountability goes with it and I find that focuses the governing body and staff and gives young people the best opportunities and experience and education. What people can be rest assured of is there’s a total commitment to the students, staff and population of the schools.”

Most Read

Hamond’s High School has been hit by falling student numbers and staff cuts since a �900,000 deficit was discovered in 2009.

Its Ofsted report, released earlier this month, said the 555-pupil school was “on the road to recovery”, but issued a 12-month notice to improve after downgrading its 2009 “satisfactory” rating to “inadequate”. Its sixth form, the smallest in Norfolk, is also set to close in July.

Headteacher Stuart Bailey has said the academy bid, which could see Hamond’s change its name, would wipe out the school’s financial difficulties. He added ATT wanted to explore restoring post-16 provision, possibly specialising in digital or green technology.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss met Swaffham Hamond’s governors and councillors from the town, district and county councils last week at which she said there was a “great deal” of support in becoming an academy.

Meanwhile, Hockwold and Methwold Community School, which became the first in the county to amalgamate primary and secondary pupils last year and also offers degree courses, was found to be “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors in February.

Literacy in particular needed to be improved as a “matter of urgency”, they found, while “too much” teaching was inadequate or satisfactory and middle management was lacking the capacity to deliver pupils’ needs.

Chair of governors, Jeff Prosser, said governors had heard a presentation by Mr Cleland at a meeting last week at which a decision was made to move to an academy.

“I think we saw the writing was on the wall in the sense that somebody would start asking serious questions if we didn’t take action following our Ofsted report,” he said.

“I think it’s the best opportunity we’ve now got to turn the school around.”

Both schools are now waiting for government approval, which, if granted, could see them become academies in September.