45-hour school week: ‘plans were not hidden from parents’

CRITICISM that a 45-hour school week has been forced through without consultation has been rebuffed by the people at the helm of Greenacre Primary School.

The Dickens Road site is to keep Year 5 and 6 pupils at school until 6pm when it becomes an academy in September.

But parents say they first learnt of the plans when their children took letters home on Wednesday, June 13.

Headteacher Bill Holledge, 33, said that the extended timetable had been discussed at a coffee morning on April 30, which was advertised to parents.

And he says the information was put on the school’s website - with a link advertised to parents in a newsletter on April 18 - and hard copies were available at reception.

“This is the kind of radical decision that moves you forward and it’s absolutely what Greenacre needs,” added Mr Holledge.

“What drew me here is the children have what they need to achieve but have been let down over the years.

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“The bottom line for me is threequarters of Year 6 pupils left the school unable to read, write or add up when I joined.

“Our maths results are now higher than the national average and this is the natural next step.”

He explained that Norfolk County Council had introduced the school to sponsor Theodore Agnew in December 2011, and the governors had been unanimous in their support.

“It’s been really pushed and encouraged in a positive way by the local authority,” said Mr Holledge.

“Governors have spent a lot of time considering the pros and cons.”

He said a group meeting with parents “would not move things forward” and is encouraging those with concerns to come to him with their individual worries.

And he added most youngsters are enthusiastic about the move.

“We met with the school council and some of their questions were really intelligent and probing,” added Mr Holledge. “They’re really positive about it. Although it seems radical, the school has been opening on Saturday mornings since February.”

Among the plans are to offer free horse-riding. Stables at Pakefield and Caister are being considered, and teachers say children would go there earlier than usual to ensure they were back on site by the end of the school day.

Responding to concerns about travel, Mr Holledge said it was reasonable for children and parents to make their own arrangements as most live nearby.

Iain MacDonald, chairman of the governors, said Greenacre has had eight headteachers in the last eight years and change was needed.

And he says representatives are fully behind the academy and timetable plans.

“We represent the local authority, parents and staff and took a unanimous decision to go down the academy route,” he said.

“We wondered whether the whole thing would become a political football, but it didn’t.

“There was clear consensus that this was the best way forward for us.

“Often parents circumstances mean some things are too costly, and this is really about opportunities as this will be free and on their doorstep.”

He added: “They’re not going down the mines or up the chimneys - these will be rich extracurricular activities.”

IF you would like to comment on the issue, whether you are in support, or object, email samuel.russell@archant.co.uk