£13m shakeup of Great Yarmouth schools to boost pupil places

Education bosses hope to address the shortage of pupil places by explanding schools in Great Yarmout

Education bosses hope to address the shortage of pupil places by explanding schools in Great Yarmouth, as they press ahead with a plan to turn the former Co-op department store into a secondary school. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

A £13m upgrade of Great Yarmouth schools is being hailed as the answer to a pressing need for more pupil places.

Education bosses are bidding to turn every infant and junior school across the town into all-through primaries to address Yarmouth's growing pupil population, and make the journey through education smoother for youngsters.

Consultation into the scheme is now under way and comes as county hall leaders press ahead with their £4.5m bid to turn the old Co-op building into a much-needed secondary school.

Hopes are high that the disused town centre unit can be transformed into the borough's first free school, and council officers and planners are due to meet next week to discuss the plans further.

The primaries plan is already under way at Southtown Infant and Edward Worlledge Junior, which are set to become primary schools from September 2014.

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Norfolk County Council is investing £2.3m at both sites to allow them to take children from reception age all the way through to 11, and they are now keen to roll the scheme out across the town.

Bosses are proposing to increase capacity at Alderman Swindell, Northgate Infant, St George's Infant, North Denes Junior and St Nicholas Priory, and have set aside £13m to improve the schools' buildings if the plan gets a green light.

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Mick Castle, county councillor for Yarmouth North and Central - and former cabinet member for schools - said the expansion would require 'lateral thinking' at some sites such as St George's as its position in the town is 'very landlocked'.

But others had room to grow, such as North Denes and Northgate.

Mr Castle explained the aim behind the plan was twofold. He said: 'We're short of spaces and because we haven't got any new land for new schools we have got to make use of what we got.

'And there's an educational value in it. Children who change school at eight and then again at 11 tend to fall back when they go from school to school. If you keep youngsters through from early years to 11, they don't drop off.'

Under the plan schools would be expanded to add a new year group every year from September 2015 - September 2021, creating the potential for an extra 60 places at each site.

Meetings are being held at all the effected schools so parents can find out more about the plan, with a final decision over the proposal due to be made by the end of the year.

Mr Castle said expansion had gone down well at Southtown and Edward Worlledge and hoped parents would welcome the rollout.

He added: 'I'm hoping parents and schools will embrace them because we have got to find a way of accommodating all the youngsters in Yarmouth.'

Plans to create a second high school were also pressing ahead, he said, as council officers are due to meet with planners to discuss what could be done to the Co-Op building.

Options include demolishing it or maintaining the building but giving it a full refurbishment.

Mr Castle said the secondary school plan could also help St Nicholas Priory grow by allowing it to expand onto the Co-Op site.

? What do you think? Write with full contact details, to Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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