Diocesan schools in Norfolk could all become academies in five years, strategy says

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. Picture: James Bass

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

All Diocesan schools in the county could become academies in the next five years, a new strategy says.

The Diocese of Norwich has launched its education vision for 2018 to 2023, which it hopes will play a pivotal role in wider Norfolk and Waveney schooling.

The 111 schools and academies under the Diocese represent more than half of Norfolk's small schools and serve a quarter of the young people in its area, which includes the majority of Norfolk and parts of north-east Suffolk.

And in response to a shifting education landscape, the vision puts forward an ambition to see its schools work together in multi-academy trusts (MAT).

It says: 'Having reflected on local and national drivers, the context of Diocese and our belief that the Church of England has a significant role to play in facilitating its school leaders to innovate and be successful, this strategy sets out a vision where all Diocesan schools are working together in MATs.'

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The strategy lists ways that it could be achieved, including seeing all Diocesan schools become academies by the end of 2023, and operating three MATs of 5,000 to 6,000 pupils and 35 schools.

Currently, 30 of its 111 schools are academies, but the Diocese said MATs would enable its small schools in particular to become 'sustainably good or better'.

It already runs the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT), which was set up in 2013 and has 30 schools.

While its rapid growth caused some difficulties early on, a recent Ofsted inspection said it was 'getting its act together'.

And in December the Diocese was green-lit to launch its second trust - the Diocese of Norwich St Benet's Multi-Academy Trust, which will include Archbishop Sancroft High in Harleston.

But the strategy says to provide 'high quality, value for money services and cost savings' for more school improvement, a company will be formed to provide services for its schools.

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The document also recommends that the Diocese explores entering 'the special educational needs or alternative provision arena within the next five years'.

Speaking about the strategy, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: 'Our schools should be places of God's blessing, where Christ's promise that we should have life in all its abundance is tangible.'

He said the strategy sought to 'bring a great many different areas of our life in education together'.

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