Norfolk academies face race against time
Steve Downes Norfolk's four newest academies are set for a race against time to get government permission ahead of their planned opening for the new school year in September.
Norfolk's four newest academies are set for a race against time to get government permission ahead of their planned opening for the new school year in September.
On Monday, Norfolk County Council's cabinet is expected to agree the closure of five high schools - Oriel High at Gorleston, Rosemary Musker and Charles Burrell at Thetford, Costessey High and The Park High at King's Lynn.
The move would pave the way for them to be replaced by four academies, including a split-site facility at the two Thetford schools.
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The closure notices must be agreed by the council before the government can sign off the funding agreement for the academies - meaning the tightest of timescales to get them ready.
Despite the fact that the clock is ticking, the new coalition government's strong support for academies makes it likely that the projects will be quickly agreed to enable the deadlines to be met.
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A report to cabinet says: “The closure of the schools would enable academies to be established on September 1 if the proposals receive approval from the secretary of state.
“It is intended that the proposals are formally submitted to the secretary of state following a sign-off meeting with Department for Education officials.
“As final ministerial approval for the academies cannot be given until the closure decision is made by the county council, this matter has been designated an urgent decision.”
The report added that cabinet's agreement to close the schools to make way for academies would only take effect if the government agreed the schemes by July 31.
The academies at Costessey and Gorleston are being planned by lead sponsor Ormiston Trust, a charity that works to promote the wellbeing of children and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Principal-designates have already been appointed for the academies.
The Thetford scheme - under lead sponsor Wymondham College - comprises a 1,650-place academy for 11-16s with 400 sixth form places. The aim is to develop it over three sites - the two high schools and a Thetford Forum development in the town centre.
At King's Lynn, the project is led by the College of West Anglia.
The report said there had been just three responses to the posting of public notices for the closure of the five schools.
Lincolnshire County Council's head of property and technology management wrote in support of the King's Lynn academy, while there were two objections to the Thetford scheme.
One person said the wishes of local residents were “being ignored”, while the other said the salary for the prospective principal was “too high”, access to the proposed third site was “restricted to traffic” and the cost of the plan - put at �50m - would “exceed the budget that will be implemented after the election”.