Call to fight city academy plan

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Controversial plans for a city academy in Norwich would break the "family of schools" in the city, a public meeting heard last night.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Controversial plans for a city academy in Norwich would break the "family of schools" in the city, a public meeting heard last night.

Entrepreneur Graham Dacre wants to sponsor a faith-based city academy at Heartsease High School.

But parents and teachers were urged to unite against the plans in a debate at the school chaired by Norwich North MP Ian Gibson.

The meeting comes as details of a public consultation about the proposals were announced.

The consultation is part of a nine-month feasibility study. It will include 30,000 questionnaires sent to people living in the school's catchment area, public meetings, telephone surveys and face to face interviews.

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The results will be submitted as part of a feasibility study to the government in September

An initial exhibition will take place at Plumstead Road Library on June 12 from 1pm to 4.30pm.

There will also be a series of meetings on June 12 at the school from 7pm, June 20 at the The Canary in Watling Street at 7.30pm and St Francis Church Hall, Rider Haggard Road at 2pm on July 12.

Alasdair Smith, from the Anti Academies Alliance, said the proposal would drain funds from other schools and be beyond the control of parents and education chiefs. There was also little evidence that standards improved.

Paul Cunningham, a governor at Blyth Jex School, said schools should concentrate on working collaboratively to drive up standards for all.

"There is concern. It's a family of schools network in the north of Norwich and if you take out part of that network what is going to happen to the sixth form college?

"It's not just about what's right or wrong. Even if you accept that the best thing for Heartsease is to become a school with a church ethos it's not only about how it affects Heartsease but it's also about how it affects Sprowston and Blyth Jex," he said.

But Peter Howard, vicar of St Francis Church, Heartsease, said it was important to learn more about the plans.

He said both the Bishop of Norwich and Mr Dacre had been unable to attend because of prior engagements.

"All we know about the proposal is the general principles," he said. "In my own mind I am ambivalent about it. I want to hear about it to know whether it is going to be good for this school and this area."

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