Thetford academy a step closer

PLANS for an innovative three-site academy in Thetford are a significant step closer to reality after the government agreed an expression of interest outlining the sponsors' vision to transform learning in the town.

By STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondent

PLANS for an innovative three-site academy in Thetford are a significant step closer to reality after the government agreed an expression of interest outlining the sponsors' vision to transform learning in the town.

Lead sponsor Wymondham College and co-sponsors Norfolk County Council, Easton College and West Suffolk College want to develop the academy to replace the town's high school, Rosemary Musker and Charles Burrell.

If it gets the final go-ahead, it would open this September in the current school buildings, with a new complex costing �40m-plus, spread over three sites - the two schools and the site of the town centre bus station - to open in a few years.

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The government acceptance of the expression of interest means the county council can move onto a public consultation about whether to close both schools and replace them immediately with an academy.

At the same time, the sponsors will be carrying out a feasibility study which will look closely at how the project could be achieved.

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Janet Murphy, the council's deputy cabinet member for education, said: “This is great news for Thetford - and a huge opportunity. We are ambitious for Norfolk's young people and want to help create an academy in Thetford because academies bring a lot of resources and can make a big difference in a short time.

“Staff at Charles Burrell and Rosemary Musker have been working extremely hard to help pupils do the best they can. We now want to build on that improvement and transform learning in the town.”

Melvyn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College, said: “I am absolutely delighted that our expression of interest has been accepted. This is about giving young people in Thetford the best possible secondary education and also, very importantly, about giving exciting new facilities and opportunities to everyone in Thetford, whatever their age. It's very exciting.”

The formal consultation period starts this week and ends on March 24. Children at all schools in Thetford will be given a copy of the consultation questionnaire to take home and the document is available online at

The council is also sending copies to Thetford Town Council, doctors' surgeries, post offices and the library. You can also e-mail to ask for a copy.

After the consultation, the council's cabinet will decide on April 6 whether to issue a public notice to close the schools so they could be replaced with one academy, with the final decision on June 14.

The proposal is supported by the Thetford Learning Group, a sub-group of the Moving Thetford Forward Partnership. Moving Thetford Forward is a partnership to support the growth and development of Thetford and consists of Breckland District Council, Norfolk County Council, Thetford Town Council and a wide range of other local organisations.

On hearing that the government has accepted the expression of interest for the Thetford Academy, Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Thetford, Peter Smith, said: “As a teacher, I believe passionately in education and I am delighted that young people in Thetford will be given the opportunity to excel with their learning.

“I praise all those involved in getting this project to this stage. This represents yet another boost for the area from the Government. The feasibility funding provided by the Government for the Academy to proceed comes on top of other support provided in Thetford, including the millions received through Growth Point, the near �1 million for the Thetford Healthy Town initiative and the �400,000 for the new Inspiring Communities project.

“With specific regard to the new Thetford Forum, intended to be sited on the current Riverside bus station site, I ask the planners to ensure the concerns of local people, expressed clearly at the Moving Thetford Forward days, which I attended, are fully taken into consideration and their points addressed.”

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