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Love of learning for bright future

PUBLISHED: 16:59 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:14 03 July 2010

CLEAR VISION: Oriel High School headteacher Paul Butler has helped turn around the fortunes of the Gorleston school.

CLEAR VISION: Oriel High School headteacher Paul Butler has helped turn around the fortunes of the Gorleston school.

Miles Jermy

A DRIVING passion to improve is transforming the prospects of a previously struggling school.

There is an optimistic mood at Gorleston's Oriel High School, where staff and students are working hard to raise standards.

'OWZAT! Oriel High School pupils take part in a game of cricket in the school's new top class sports hall.

A DRIVING passion to improve is transforming the prospects of a previously struggling school.

There is an optimistic mood at Gorleston's Oriel High School, where staff and students are working hard to raise standards.

Head teacher Paul Butler is determined to change negative perceptions of the school, which has made “rapid progress” in the last few months.

His task was not made easier by the Government's announcement that schools could face closure or replaced by academies unless 30pc of pupils gained five or more A* to GCSEs including English and Maths by 2011.

“It was as if they wanted to make a song and dance about it, but the way it was done was over aggressive,” he said.

“The focus was on a single crude indicator that does not take into account all the improvements going on in schools like this.

“We will be well over the threshold in the next two years, but a lot of schools are being unfairly stigmatised.

“There is a rising trend of results and I see this as a potentially excellent school and in a lot of areas students make remarkable progress.

“We are really focussed on giving children the best possible chance so it is possible for students of all academic abilities to fulfil their potential.”

Mr Butler expressed confidence that the achievements of the school would be reflected in its next Ofsted report.

Oriel is in the top 6pc of schools in the country for improving students' educational standards.

In September the school became a specialist Maths and Technology college opening the way for extra cash to develop and enhance those departments.

That coincided with the arrival of Mr Butler as head teacher, the first permanent appointment to the role in seven years.

It followed a decade of negative headlines about rock bottom exam results, special measures and pupil indiscipline.

But a new era has been ushered in with the opening of a top class new sports hall and teaching block following the completion of a £7m building programme.

The school is oversubscribed for the first time in several years and Mr Butler is planning to continue the transformation to fulfil his vision for the school.

“There are plans for an arts block and dance studio, my aim is also to have a theatre, cinema and swimming pool,” he said.

“I saw the great potential in the school before I came here and I want it to be a resource for the whole community.

“The students started a radio station in September and there will be a media suite opening at the start of next term.

“We produced our website, which is one of the best in Norfolk and focused on the students and what they are achieving.”

There has been plenty of more good news in recent months with the setting up of a partnership with Gresham's independent school in Holt and top Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston has agreed to become a patron and work with food technology classes.

Photography students have displayed their work at Norwich Cathedral and given the honour of staging an exhibition by English Heritage focusing on Yarmouth's charter celebrations.

Student numbers are set to rise to 900 with the intake of Year 7 following the borough wide school reorganisation and 15 new staff recruited for the start of next term.

Mr Butler, who was previously a deputy head at an Essex school for eight years, has clear vision for the future of the school.

He said: “I want to see sustained progress in our results not a series of ups and downs; I am passionate that the school improves.

“The school is good at looking after individual students and having a tailored learning package for them - in the future they will be studying at different schools and taking courses at college. I want young people to have a love of learning and see school as just the start of a lifetime's education.”

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