Academy switch will improve the students’ prospects, says sponsor

Principal of Downham Market Academy Jon Ford. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Principal of Downham Market Academy Jon Ford. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Pupils will stand a better chance of landing jobs or gaining further education and training as a result of a high school's switch to an academy, a further education college principal has said.

David Pomfret, from the College of West Anglia, said Downham Market High School's change to Downham Market Academy was geared towards achieving better results – which in turn would give students more options for the future.

The CWA is sponsoring the new academy in Bexwell Road, which started this week, to help use the CWA's expertise in areas such as the leadership and governance of the school, the curriculum and the development of teachers.

Mr Pomfret said the college's similar sponsorship of the King's Lynn Academy over the past three years showed it could make a difference to the school, which is seeking to come out of special measures after being judged as 'inadequate' by Ofsted last year.

'We took a long time to think about whether we could, and should, get involved as a sponsor,' Mr Pomfret said.


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'In the end we came firmly to the conclusion that we felt we had something to offer and that we had wider community leadership responsibilities.'

Jon Ford, principal of the new academy, said his school had already made great progress since the critical Ofsted report. Last year 57pc of its pupils scored five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths – a 20pc improvement on the year before, the highest rate of progress in west Norfolk.

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However to make the further steps forward, Mr Ford said the school had to look for a 'strong partner' for help.

The CWA was the best option because of its 'track record of developing and supporting local schools', he said.

Mr Pomfret added that the CWA would be able to bring an 'absolute focus on the young people' and said the college's involvement would be 'very much about setting high ambitions'. He added: 'We will be expecting a lot of the staff and the students.'

As part of the changes, the school will move to a smarter uniform and library space will be trebled.

Gone will be the year groups of old in favour of a new 'vertical tutoring' system, where form groups are made up of pupils from all ages, and the academy will be given a new 'adventure' theme, which Mr Ford said would make the students' learning 'more outward-looking'.

Mr Ford admitted that 'some people have had some reservations' about the changes but added: 'We think we've worked hard to resolve them and support people through the changes. We'll never make everything right for everyone but there is a general feeling the move is positive. People have concerns but are open-minded and prepared to work through them.'

In an earlier message to parents, he added: 'Please do know that I am incredibly mindful of the worries and issues that people face during times of great change. We are not entering into any of this lightly. On top of the wide consultations and discussions within the community, a significant number of staff have visited outstanding schools to learn from what they do and how they do it.

'We are confident that the Downham Market Academy will take us on our next step towards becoming outstanding.'

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