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Academy plan for Gorleston school

PUBLISHED: 09:06 07 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 03 July 2010

A struggling Norfolk high school is set to be put on a fast track to academy status by September next year.

The county council's cabinet is expected to agree on Monday to Oriel High, in Gorleston, becoming the latest school in the county to set off on the route to becoming an academy, an independent state school free of local authority control.

A struggling Norfolk high school is set to be put on a fast track to academy status by September next year.

The county council's cabinet is expected to agree on Monday to Oriel High, in Gorleston, becoming the latest school in the county to set off on the route to becoming an academy, an independent state school free of local authority control.

The next step in the plan, which could ultimately unlock an investment of more than £20m in the school, would be for council officers to prepare a formal expression of interest to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Government approval would then trigger funding for a feasibility study.

The cabinet will be told that the Ormiston Trust, an education charity involved in a number of academies, including one proposed on the site of Costessey High School, has been lined up as the lead sponsor, alongside Gorleston's East Norfolk Sixth Form and the county council.

Gresham's, the independent school at Holt, which has already developed educational links with Oriel, is set to be an educational partner.

Trevor Wainwright, chairman of the governors at Oriel, which has struggled through special measures, a financial crisis and five headteachers in the past six years, said: “Whatever people's views are on academies, it has got to be all about the children's education and giving them what's best for them.

“At the moment, Oriel's results are quite clearly not what they should be and we are still well below the accepted benchmark of 30pc of students achieving five A to C GCSEs, including maths and English.”

He highlighted the fact that the Open Academy, the first of two Norfolk academies to date, doubled the percentage of students getting five A to C GCSEs in the first year of taking over from the old Heartsease High School.

And he said the massive investment in school buildings and equipment and the harnessing of the expertise of East Norfolk Sixth Form College could only improve educational provision at Oriel.

Mr Wainwright gave an assurance that parents would be fully consulted once the process had started and there would be no job implications for staff as they would all be transferred to the academy.

East Norfolk Sixth Form College principal Laurie Poulson said: “We, along with Great Yarmouth College, are fully supportive of any scheme that will be to the benefit of Oriel High School. Plans are still at an early stage but we are pleased to be involved.”

Shelagh Hutson, the council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “Oriel High School has faced significant challenges in recent years and, although the school is making progress, we believe an academy will help transform learning for its students.

"We have identified a strong lead sponsor and group of strategic partners with an excellent track record of improving standards. If Cabinet approves, we will work closely with these partners to develop an expression of interest. There would be widespread public consultation before any final decisions were made."

Gresham's headteacher Philip John said they were very proud of their relationship with Oriel which began in 2005 focusing on the creative arts, and had now developed into a more formal partnership which included pupil exchanges, parental visits and broader discussion of educational and cultural ideas.

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