Gorleston's Oriel High in fast track Academy bid

Stephen Pullinger Troubled Oriel High School at Gorleston is to be put on a fast track to academy status by September next year.

Stephen Pullinger

Troubled Oriel High School at Gorleston is to be put on a fast track to academy status by September next year.

Norfolk county council's cabinet today agreed to its 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.

It would unlock an investment of more than �20m in the school.

The next step 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 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.

Most Read

Gresham's 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 and there would be no job implications for staff as they would all be transferred to the academy.

He said: “The governing body has every confidence in the staff and understands the challenges facing Oriel, which include a large number of pupils with special needs.”

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.

"The Open Academy, in Norwich, has already had huge success in raising aspirations and achievements and the additional investment an academy will bring will be of huge benefit to young people at Oriel.”