Proposals for a new Free School which would aim to arm Norfolk’s world-class science and engineering industries with their pick of world class-employees were announced last night.

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Plans for the Sir Isaac Newton Free School, a sixth form specialising in maths and science, were revealed by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chairman David Prior and Ormiston Victory Academy principal Rachel de Souza.

The pair hope to work together to create the Norwich-based school which they said could become “a beacon for maths and science teaching” across the country.

Announcing the plans last night, Mr Prior said: “I think it will raise the game of all the schools in Norfolk who are, frankly, way off the pace at the moment. We need a bomb to go off in maths and science teaching. I want to be part of that bomb.”

An application to the department for education (DfE) is set to be submitted next month with Mr Prior planning to take on the title of chairman while Mrs de Souza would have a executive director-style role.

Both would continue their existing roles at the NNUH and Ormiston Victory.

The school, which could open in September 2013, would cater for at least 100 students aged 16 to 19 years old from across Norfolk and north Suffolk.

The curriculum would focus strongly on science and maths – with students needing to get A*s, As and Bs at GCSE in their chosen disciplines to gain a place – with other subjects also available.

Mrs de Souza said: “This school is for serious-minded academic students who want to go to a good university. We will aim for A and A* A-levels and we will develop close links with Oxbridge and the best universities in Britain.”

The pair behind the Free School believe there is a “black hole” in maths and science education in Norfolk and across the country, with low participation levels and low attainment, they said.

In 2010, it was revealed the UK had fallen to 28th place in maths and 16th in science in the world education rankings by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which compares 65 countries.

But, with the ever-growing reputation of places like the Hethel Engineering Centre and the Norwich Research Park, which is set to use government funding to create a next-generation science park, now more than ever the county needs a stream of top-class science scholars.

Mr Prior said: “We have this chance of developing something very special – but we have to have the people. If we haven’t got the trained, technical people, none of this business will be a success.

“That’s why this sixth form could be really exciting.

“We have the makings of a science and technical community which could be a bit like Cambridge.”

If the application is approved, its backers will begin their search for a “top flight” principal who would be expected to teach as well as lead the school.

Mr Prior said his team would also look to recruit “the best teachers” and the school would develop its own teacher-training programme, which he hoped other schools would make use of.

Links are already being made with a host of local companies and organisations in the county’s science and engineering community – with the N&N at the top of the list.

Its chairman said: “The hospital will be working very closely to provide work experience and mentoring. I’m hoping some of the lectures provided at the medical school can be made available for some of the students interested in medicine later on.”

Mrs de Souza admitted the Free School would be in competition with other Norfolk sixth forms, including her own at Ormiston Victory Academy.

But she said she hoped schools would choose to work with it, sharing resources and expertise.

A site for the school has not yet been found although talks are ongoing over two Norwich locations, which would aim to make transport links as easy as possible.

9 comments

  • Large financial services companies in Norwich should be approached to aid in this initiative too. With their large amounts of highly skilled actuarial, accounting and IT staff they surely must be perfect places for work experience syllabus support. This school sounds like an ideal complement for the existing good schools in Norwich. Great idea and I hope it takes off and then, when my sons are old enough then if they wished to apply I would certainly back them.

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    pjor

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

  • It cannot be right that such a proposal could be considered on the basis of 100 students, when this would not be accepted as economically viable for other post-16 institutions. Your account seems very biased, especcially as you encourage readers to register their interest in the proposal and do not question the assertion that there is 'a black hole' in maths and science education in Norfolk in your editorial! Where is your evidence? Will this institution teach those applicants who are less than academically excellent?

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    Sarah Cassell

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • Unfortunate terminology Mr Prior. All sounds wonderful but essentially is this all cost effective. "Executive director-style role"? Does this mean an extra layer of the very bureaucracy that this Govt were supposed to be removing. Is she paid £100ks in addition to highly paid "principals" in both schools who in effect do her job thus wasting even more money. This is the London model where some HTs earn £180 to run numerous schools but replicate the headteacher role with Deputy Headteachers doing it instead......all very odd AND hugely expensive!

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    Sportswagon

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • Ah, Sir isaac Newton, the man who put Grantham on the map. Would he turn in his grave seeing the politicisation of school education? BTW. he was not very good at math.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • Providing higher standards of education for young learners is essential, but it is sad to read that Mr Prior considers maths and science teaching in Norfolk to be "way off the pace". If any one of the current colleges were provided with the support and millions in financial input which the Sir Isaac Newton free school will no doubt receive, I am certain that standards would improve. It is inevitable, too, that a college which only accepts applications from students who have attained B or above will achieve higher results. Most sixth forms locally accept students with C grades - first, because many young people make excellent progress in sixth form and deserve the opportunity to study at an advanced level, and second, because the courses would not be financially viable if under-subscribed. At a time when local schools are being forced to make substantial cutbacks, and are being forced in to Academy status in order to survive financially, this proposal, and Mr Prior's comments, are ill-timed and ignorant. Why does he not offer be part of "the bomb" that supports current establishments improve, and at an age prior to A-Level? Perhaps because it's much harder to make the cream than to skim it off the top.

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    murry

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

  • It cannot be right that such a proposal could be considered on the basis of 100 students, when this would not be accepted as economically viable for other post-16 institutions. Your account seems very biased, especcially as you encourage readers to register their interest in the proposal and do not question the assertion that there is 'a black hole' in maths and science education in Norfolk in your editorial! Where is your evidence? Will this institution teach those applicants who are less than academically excellent?

    Report this comment

    Sarah Cassell

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • Interesting that a principal who does not engage with other Norfolk Headteachers is hoping that others will cooperate.

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    NFN

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • It cannot be right that such a proposal could be considered on the basis of 100 students, when this would not be accepted as economically viable for other post-16 institutions. Your account seems very biased, especcially as you encourage readers to register their interest in the proposal and do not question the assertion that there is 'a black hole' in maths and science education in Norfolk in your editorial! Where is your evidence? Will this institution teach those applicants who are less than academically excellent?

    Report this comment

    Sarah Cassell

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

  • ......with students needing to get A*s, As and Bs at GCSE.......A step towards a sort of Science Grammar School for kids with A* ability. Makes a change from schools spending most of their money on the CD borderlines.

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    Rhombus

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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