Joy at Ormiston Venture Academy over �8m grant

STAFF and students at Gorleston’s Ormiston Venture Academy are celebrating news that the school is to receive �8m from the Department for Education for a revamp.

Principal Nicole McCartney said she had told students on Wednesday and they were thrilled at the news.

The funding announcement has come as a major lift for the school, which took over from Oriel High in September, as it was thought the state of the economy would delay any major work.

Ms McCartney said: “The country is in a precarious position and we were prepared to make do because a lot of people are having to do that. We are extraordinarily delighted that �8m has come through.”

She said planning, involving consultation with staff, students and the wider public, would begin straightaway although the timetable for building work was still being decided.

She said: “It will be about making sure the school is prepared for 21st century learning and ensuring the resources are there to do it.”

She said a prime objective would be to build on the school’s position as a community hub and they would be looking at what facilities might be possible, such as leisure centres, creches or health centres.

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“As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and we want to make sure there is strong interaction between students and the community,” she said.

Ms McCartney said technology facilities needed upgrading and building a theatre to capitalise on the school’s strength in creative arts was a possibility.

She said: “Although we have a new sports hall, areas of provision for PE are lacking, for instance, there is no fitness room.”

The �10.5m is part of more than �50m handed out by the Department for Education (DfE) for academy rebuilds in Norfolk – including �18.2m for Thetford Academy, �15m for Ormiston Victory Academy at Costessey and �10.5m for King’s Lynn Academy.

The sums are some way short of the total of more than �100m that was initially expected for complete rebuilds like the one that has been delivered at Norfolk’s first academy, Open Academy at Heartsease in north Norwich.

But it is considerably more than the four were expecting to get, having seen the new coalition government freeze academy funding when it took power in May last year.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We recognised these areas needed a change to boost aspirations and raise educational achievement and we have been working hard to try to secure funding to transform learning for students.

“This funding allocation is a real boost in what are difficult economic times and we will now begin work to ensure we can deliver fantastic buildings and improvements at these academies.

“As a co-sponsor of the Thetford and King’s Lynn academies, we will also be working with the lead sponsors to explore how we can make the most of the funding available and see how it fits with the ambitious plans for both academies.”