Dereham Neatherd High School reverses opposition to becoming academy

Peter Devonish, headteacher of Dereham Neatherd High School

Peter Devonish, headteacher of Dereham Neatherd High School - Credit: Archant

One of the last community high schools in Norfolk has reversed its opposition to becoming an academy, and is applying to set up its own multi-academy trust.

Staff and parents at Dereham Neatherd High School are this afternoon being told that it is applying to become an academy, and lead a trust that could sponsor other academies in Dereham and the mid-Norfolk area.

Headteacher Peter Devonish had been one of Norfolk's most vocal critics of the government's academy programme, but the school's chair of governors, Gill Spillman, said the situation had now changed, with ministers now promoting local multi-academy trusts (MATs) in preference to stand-alone academies.

In a letter, Gill Spillman wrote: 'In making this application, we are reversing our previous policy regarding academy status. In the past, we have not been persuaded that becoming a stand-alone academy would bring any significant benefit to our students and staff. Now the situation has changed and we find ourselves presented with a genuine opportunity that we feel we must take advantage of.'

The decision to apply to set up an academy trust follows that of Thorpe St Andrew School, another school that had previously resisted academisation, earlier this month.

The chair of governors' letter added: ''Community' is a key element in our vision and, for that reason, parents and students alike can be sure that the traditions and values of schools in our MAT will be respected and built upon.

'Amongst other things, this means that the essential character of Neatherd as an inclusive, comprehensive school will remain intact: the name, uniform and ethos will be unchanged; the Head of Neatherd will remain the Head and will continue to teach.

'Teaching standards will not be compromised in any way. At the same time, the growing strength of the excellent senior management team we are fortunate in having at Neatherd will enable us to provide a firm lead to the MAT and we anticipate that our head will be its chief-executive.'

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She added that it was 'impossible to overstate' the advantages that forming a MAT would have for teacher recruitment, and career development of staff.

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