Thetford schools in county academy plan

PUBLISHED: 17:22 18 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 07 July 2010

Two of Norfolk's top independent schools are being lined up to help their struggling neighbours as part of a £100m-plus plan for five new academies across the county - with two possible candidates at Thetford.

Two of Norfolk's top independent schools are being lined up to help their struggling neighbours as part of a £100m-plus plan for five new academies across the county - with two possible candidates at Thetford.

Norwich School and Gresham's at Holt have expressed an interest in being among sponsors for academies at some of Norfolk's lowest-performing state schools.

The idea is in its early stages, but could include allowing the schools and pupils to share facilities, teaching and expertise in a bid to boost their results.

The private schools could join forces with organisations including Easton College, Norwich City College, North Earlham, Larkman and Marlpit (NELM) Development Trust and Norfolk County Council in sponsorship “consortia” to run the academies.

Gresham's headmaster Antony Clark said: “We have been in discussion with the office of Lord Adonis as well as with our local authorities as to what creative role Gresham's can play in attempting to assist the upliftment process.

“Discussion is very much at the formative stage, but could ultimately include such provision as the use of our facilities at certain times.”

Jim Hawkins, headmaster of Norwich School, confirmed that the school had registered its interest in academies.

He said: “We are very interested in developments across the sectors and the ways barriers between independent and state schools are being dismantled in a positive way.”

The revelation came as the council announced the five schools it wants to put forward as possible academies. They are:

Earlham High in Norwich, Costessey High, Alderman Peel High at Wells, Rosemary Musker High at Thetford and Charles Burrell High at Thetford.

The two Thetford schools and Costessey and Earlham could pair up to develop separate academies with joint working and even a single governing body or trust.

The five are among nine Norfolk schools whose results fall below the government target of at least 30pc of pupils gaining five or more A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths.

The drive to improve became more urgent last week as chancellor Alistair Darling announced that the 638 English schools, including the nine in Norfolk, whose results fell below the 30pc target, had until 2011 to improve - or face closure.

The academy proposals, set out in a report to last week's Norfolk children's services review panel, are part of the council's “strategic” approach to developing academies alongside improving secondary school performance.

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, said: “It is vital that we continue to offer extensive support to schools in challenging circumstances and this report explores how we can do this through the academies programme.

“We need to move forward in a way which will benefit as many young people as possible and will allow us to fulfil our ambition to have good schools in every community.”

Education bosses hope the presence of the independent schools and mainstream colleges will attract local businesses wanting to put up the £2m sponsorship needed for each academy.

The report will go forward to the council's cabinet in April for members to decide whether to agree the approach.

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