Academy is one step away

A controversial plan for Norfolk's first academy school is one step from becoming reality after councillors agreed to close Heartsease High in Norwich.

A controversial plan for Norfolk's first academy school is one step from becoming reality after councillors agreed to close Heartsease High in Norwich.

Schools secretary Ed Balls will now have the final say by March 11 on the scheme to demolish the existing school and build a £20m academy.

If he agrees it, which seems likely, the academy could open in the existing buildings this September and in the new building in September 2010.

The closure plan was unanimously approved by Norfolk County Council's cabinet, despite opposition from teachers and governors from the school and teaching unions - and two petitions, with 550 signatures, from local residents.


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Opponents say the existing school is improving, while they are uncomfortable with the academy management system, which sees decision-making placed in the hands of the sponsors - businessman Graham Dacre and the Bishop of Norwich.

They also claim that the public consultation has not been taken into account, and are unhappy that £20m could be invested in the academy while nothing would go to other schools.

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At the meeting, cabinet member John Gretton said: “I'm saddened by some of the opposition. This administration has been accused of accepting 30 pieces of silver.

“It's made clear by St Matthew that the 30 pieces of silver were for a betrayal. If we don't accept the 30 pieces of silver we will be guilty of betraying the children in that part of Norwich.”

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, said: “Not only will this give inspiration and desire to learn to our young people, the facilities will be opened up to the parents and local residents.”

t Cabinet also agreed to close struggling Thetford schools Abbey Junior and Canterbury Infant and replace them with a primary.

But the members also agreed to a second period of consultation to establish whether the local community supported the new school taking on Church of England voluntary aided status.

The proposal for CofE VA status has only emerged in recent weeks.

A report to cabinet said the first round of consultation had found the vast majority of people in favour of the new primary school scheme, which is designed to head off a government threat to close underachieving Abbey Junior, currently in special measures.

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