8 education stories you may have missed over the summer holiday

Norwich School students receive their A-level results.For more information on this story, please con

Norwich School students receive their A-level results.For more information on this story, please contact Beth Gammage on 01603 728463. - Credit: Keith Whitmore

The summer holidays can sometimes be a quiet time for education news stories, but not so this year. Martin George rounds up some of the local articles you may have missed over the break.

GCSE successes

Norfolk teenagers appeared to have bucked a national trend which saw a record fall in GCSE result grades.

Provisional results showed 60.8pc of students achieved A*-C grades in English and mathematics, compared to 57.2pc last year.

A total of 38 Norfolk schools saw the proportion of students getting a C or above in the two key subjects rise this year, while 11 reported a fall.

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Standout results included big improvements at Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey, Acle Academy, and East Point Academy in Lowestoft.

However, there was disappointment at the Hewett Academy in Norwich, which, a year after it was controversially taken over by the Inspiration Trust, saw the proportion of pupils gaining A*-C in English and maths fall by six percentage points to 37pc.

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A-level results

Two new Norwich schools celebrated their first sets of A-level results.

Around 20 students received their results at the Jane Austen College, which opened as a free school sponsored by the Inspiration Trust in 2014, with 91pc of grades at A* to C.

At the University Technical College Norfolk, which specialises in advanced engineering and energy skills, 61.7pc of students achieved a distinction for the BTEC Engineering Diploma, and 57.1pc achieved a distinction grade for the BTEC Advanced Subsidiary Diploma.

Principal Alex Hayes said: 'Our mission is to develop tomorrow's engineering and technology specialists and that is exactly what we are doing.'

First primary boarding school?

Wymondham College announced it could set up a free school for primary school children, with 30 places for older children to board.

It would be the first primary school of its kind in the east of England.

The proposal could be submitted for government approval by the end of this month, after the college has considered the outcome of a consultation.

The 420-place school could be in Wymondham, Hethersett or Cringleford, and open in September 2019 at the earliest.

The college's website said: 'The school would promote an enthusiasm for academic learning and self-discipline together with individual creativity and social awareness.'

Highest paid academy chiefs

This newspaper revealed that nine academy bosses who have schools in our region were paid more than the prime minister last year.

Dick Palmer, head of the Transforming Education in Norfolk Group, which includes City College, City Academy, and Fakenham and Attleborough academies, had a salary of £230-£240,000, although he actually received £189,000 in 2014-15 because he was paid the equivalent of working four days a week.

Sir Steve Lancashire, the head of the Reach2 chain that has five primary schools around Lowestoft, received £220-£225,000 last year, up from £190-£195,000 in 2013-14.

Most of the academy trusts said the salaries were in line with others in similar situations, or were based on their growth.

Financial pressure on schools

An analysis of 50 sets of academy accounts in our region revealed how schools were facing deficits, staff cuts, and the impact of falling pupil numbers.

The Thomas Clarkson Academy, in Wisbech, reported the highest deficit in our region in 2014-15, of £969,000.

Dick Palmer, chief executive of the TEN Group, said: 'Schools everywhere are facing a very challenging financial environment, with pressures on all sides.

'Here in Norfolk many schools are having to contend with the additional pressure of demographic changes, with a decline in the numbers of young people resulting in a further drop in their funding.'

Prep school merger given all-clear

The Charity Commission announced it would not block controversial plans for two preparatory schools in the Norwich area to merge.

Langley Preparatory School and Taverham Hall Preparatory School announced in May that they intended to merge in September, forming Langley Preparatory School at Taverham Hall, based at Taverham Hall.

Anti-merger campaigners had raised concerns with the Charity Commission, which visited Norfolk to discuss 'regulatory concerns', but the commission later said it was 'satisfied the trustees acted within their powers and in the best interests of their respective charities and has no further regulatory concerns on this matter'.

School absence fines u-turn

A U-turn over when to fine parents for taking their children out of school led to a drastic fall in the number of punishments in Norfolk.

Thousands fewer Norfolk parents were handed fixed penalty notices for unauthorised absences in 2015-16.

It emerged that Norfolk County Council had relaxed its stance on fines, deciding not to punish parents who take their children out of school for holidays without permission, if their overall attendance is good, following a High Court judgment involving an Isle of Wight father.

Ian Clayton, principal of Thorpe St Andrew School, suggested the fall was the result of a backlash from parents over a record number of fines issued in Norfolk in 2014-15.

Green light for autism school

A free school in Norwich for children with autism has received planning permission.

The Wherry School will be based on the Hewett Academy site, off Hall Road, and is due to open in September 2017.

The plans for the single-storey building have now received the green light from planning officers at Norwich City Council.

The school is due to cater for up to 100 pupils from Norfolk and north Suffolk, aged four to 19, and will also have 66 education staff members, and seven further general staff members.

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