40 jobs set to go across City Academy Norwich, Attleborough Academy, Fakenham Academy and Wayland Academy

City Academy Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

City Academy Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

One of Norfolk's most prominent chains of academy schools has announced plans to cut up to 40 jobs in an effort to save £1.9m next year.

Dick Palmer, Group CEO Transforming Education in Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley

Dick Palmer, Group CEO Transforming Education in Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

The Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) Group blamed local demographics, which have seen pupil numbers fall, and national funding pressures.

A total of 19 of the posts facing the axe are at the struggling City Academy Norwich, which has been hit by two years of poor GCSE results, an official Government warning over its performance, and the need to repay hundreds of thousands of pounds of overpaid Government grants.

Seven posts are at risk at Attleborough Academy, 10 at Fakenham Academy, and four at Wayland Academy in Watton. Overall, 29 teaching jobs are at risk.

The Ten Group's other institutions – City College Norwich, University Technical College Norfolk and Wayland Junior Academy Watton – are not affected by the current staffing review.

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Dick Palmer, chief executive of the Ten Group, said: 'It's not of our own making. There are external considerations we are duty-bound to respond to.' He said he did not think the quality of education pupils received would suffer.

A simultaneous curriculum review would see an increased focus on core academic subjects favoured by the government, rather than vocational subjects.

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He said the demographic dip had particularly hit rural schools, although pupil numbers were forecast to start rising again after 2017-18.

The national financial pressures include a 4pc increase in employer pension contributions next year, followed by a further 5.7pc increase in 2016-17.

A key reason why some schools joined the Ten Group was the savings that could be made by its company, Norfolk Educational Services, providing services such as finance and human resources centrally.

Mr Palmer said the Ten Group asked the Association of School and College Leaders to look at its proposals and the support costs for its schools.

He said: 'They showed us, for the services we provide centrally to the academies, we are charging less than the national average. That gives me reassurance what we are doing as a group is value for money.'

The group plans to share more staff between schools, which Mr Palmer said was an example of how the savings would have been deeper had the schools not joined a wider group.

He said that, as well as the demographic dip, City Academy was hit by the increasingly-competitive education system in Norwich, which last year saw a new free school, the Jane Austen College, open.

He said City Academy discovered in September that 12 children who had accepted places with it had instead decided to go elsewhere, costing it £50,000.

Click here to see a graph showing a 10-year forecast of pupil numbers at the four academies (credit: Ten Group).

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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