Dereham Sixth Form students march in defence of their college

Dereham Sixth Form students protesting. Picture: Ian Burt

Dereham Sixth Form students protesting. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Students showed support for their college as they protested outside a meeting discussing a radical change to their education.

The teenagers marched to Dereham Neatherd High School to show unity against the decision, by its governors and management team, to split from Dereham Sixth Form College (DSFC).

The school had run the college alongside Dereham Northgate High School since 1977 but last week announced it would be establishing its own sixth form on the current site.

That could see two further education facilities operating on the same site as both schools are leasing it from Norfolk County Council.

A meeting was held at Neatherd for parents and pupils to hear more about the changes with some DSFC students making their feelings known outside.

Lucy Spinks, 17, a member of DSFC's school senate, said: 'We just wanted to express the unity of the students. Obviously it is an entirely student-led campaign which has gained a lot of traction in the school.

'We just wanted to show that we are here together. We are all working together to try to sort this out. We are not thinking of it as a protest, we are here to show what the sixth form has to offer.'

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Neatherd headteacher Peter Devonish said he and his governors had made the decision because of a lack of progress in students' results over the past few years.

He said: 'We want people to see the data that shows that the provision of the sixth form has been not good enough. We want people to see why we made the decision we had to make.'

He added the school had agreed to continue in the partnership before the resignation of DSFC director Phyllis O'Grady had sparked their decision.

Susan Ferguson, governor at Neatherd, said: 'When the current director, who has done a very good job, resigned on January 20 it finally gave us time to do something for the benefit of the young people.'

Another meeting was held at DSFC on Monday at which Northgate headteacher Glyn Hambling and other members of staff spoke to more than 500 parents and pupils to address their concerns.

Mr Hambling said: 'We were all totally overwhelmed by the positivity of the approach taken by the young people and their parents at a troubling time. It was an opportunity to start the dialogue and we thought it was important for us to talk face to face.'

Did you attend one of the meetings? What do you think? Write to doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk

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