Thetford academy 'almost certain'

Steve Downes FIVE Norfolk high schools are almost certain to close and be replaced by four academies costing a total of more than �100m.

Steve Downes

FIVE Norfolk high schools are almost certain to close and be replaced by four academies costing a total of more than �100m.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet is expected to agree the closure of Charles Burrell and Rosemary Musker at Thetford, Oriel High at Gorleston, Costessey High, and The Park High at King's Lynn.

The closure recommendation to cabinet on April 6 comes after public consultation in the communities saw the majority of respondents in favour.

At Oriel, under lead sponsor Ormiston Trust, where the replacement academy is set to be run by current deputy principal of Barnfield West Academy in Luton Nicole McCartney, 80.7pc backed the plan out of 111 who gave a view.

At Costessey, also under lead sponsor Ormiston Trust, which will be run by current Barnfield West principal Rachel de Souza, 90.4pc of 118 respondents were in favour of the change.

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The plan for The Park High, with lead sponsor the College of West Anglia, was supported by 92.2pc of 143 people who gave a view. Moves to recruit a principal are ongoing.

The only place where there is a split of opinion is at Thetford, where the plan is for the two high schools to close, making way for an eventual three-site, �50m academy at the schools and a Thetford Forum town centre site. It would be run by lead sponsor Wymondham College, with the deadline to recruit a principal recently extended.

People linked with Charles Burrell are generally supportive, but those connected to Rosemary Musker are expressing “significant reservations” about the integration of the two communities.

That is reflected in the consultation results, with 93 people (57.4pc) backing the revamp and 69 (42.6pc) opposing it.

Despite the potential split at Thetford, the report to cabinet says: “All the consultations have indicated that parents and the local communities are in support of the proposal to close the schools so that academies can be established.

“All these proposals have sponsors who can bring significant skills and expertise to bear on the development of the academies, raising standards of attainment and achievement. The cases for closure are strong in relation to raising standards.”

If cabinet agrees, statutory closure notices will be published on April 16. There would then be a six-week period for representations to be made to the council, with a final decision at cabinet on June 14.

All of the academies would open in the existing school buildings in September 2010, with new buildings at King's Lynn complete by 2014 and at Costessey by 2015 - with both �20m-plus projects funded from Building Schools for the Future cash.

The Gorleston and Thetford schemes will be funded via the government's national academies framework, with completion expected by 2014.