October 26 2014 Latest news:
Monday, September 10, 2012
A controversial 45-hour week timetable has come into force at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy today.
The Dickens Road school - formerly called Greenacre Primary - announced the timetable in June, with the backing of sponsor and prominent Tory party donor Theodore Agnew.
Headteacher Bill Holledge and Mr Agnew refused to engage concerned parents at public meetings, and more than a dozen children were withdrawn from the school before the new timetable came into force today.
But Mr Holledge insists this is about in line with an average year, and that reception classes are oversubscribed with youngsters.
Norfolk County Council officers confirmed 13 children “have been offered places at alternative schools”, and Mr Holledge added a further six have formally requested to withdraw from the extra-curricular programme while remaining at the school.
At least one of the withdrawals was a direct result of the proposals - with builder Tony Blencowe moving his six-year-old son Jack to North Denes Junior School as a result.
Under the new regime, the school day for pupils aged nine to 11 will end at 6pm but with free activities included and aimed to lift the historically failing school to success.
The extended day will include extra-curricular activities from horseriding to IT, and supervised homework time.
But some parents have threatened to withdraw their children at 3.30pm, and Nelson ward councillors have said they will visit the school this afternoon to see if parents keep to this.
The newly-named Great Yarmouth Primary Academy opened its gates to children last Thursday, with two induction days before the extended timetable kicks in today.
Mr Holledge said: “I’m sure some will turn up at 3.30pm today and that’s their right, but I’m hopeful the majority will be keen to take up what the school is offering and I’m sure many will want to engage.
“We want to reaffirm our commitment to quality teaching and raising standards. We’ve significantly improved and need to continue that.”
He said a boom in demand for reception places may be due to the offer of free extra activities - including horse riding - but “it’s too early to say”.
After “settling in” days on Thursday and Friday, youngsters in Year 5 and 6 will launch into the 45-hour week today.
Activities will include dancing, an extended sports programme run with the prestigious Norwich City Community Sports Foundation and special cooking classes run with Kiddycook.
“Over the course of the week almost all of the pupils will get to do almost all of the activities,” added Mr Holledge.
Trips to Cambridge University to study rocket engineering and a residential trip to study seals off the North Norfolk coast have also been promised during the term.
Bur Michael Jeal, councillor for Nelson ward, said parents had voiced concerns with the length of hours, and he feels communication between the school and parents has been poor.
“Unfortunately the sponsor and head have never bothered themselves to come and talk to the local councillors, which is a blatant disregard for everybody but themselves,” he said.
“I might go down at 3.30pm and see how it goes.
“I think most people will grin and bear it - most aren’t going to go anywhere else.
“They don’t want to be going to Caister and North Denes, they just want their kids out by 3.30pm.”
He added he will continue putting pressure on the school until such time parents stop asking for his help.
In May 2012, the total number of pupils at the school was 430 - with 104 in Years 5 and 6, which will be affected by the new timetable next week.
New school uniform jumpers will be distributed over the next few days free of charge, a new sign has gone up at the school and the minibus has a new design painted on it.
And the school’s new logo is “Changing Lives Through Excellence”.
The Dickens Road school has released details about improvements to the site during the summer, including £150,000 on renovating central heating systems and £2,500 on a new set of gates.