Does Watton Junior School’s move to join the Ten Group mark a milestone for the academy movement in Norfolk?

Dick Palmer dwarfed by the massive building at Yarefield Park which will house the Norfolk universit

Dick Palmer dwarfed by the massive building at Yarefield Park which will house the Norfolk university technical college, due to open in September 2014. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Ministerial approval for Watton Junior School to become an academy within a growing Norfolk education group could mark another milestone in the academy movement in the county.

The school is the first primary to join the Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) Group, which was founded last year and already has four secondary schools, either as members or about to join, as well as City College and an embryonic teacher training centre and university technical college.

The group's boast is that, perhaps uniquely, a child will be able to progress from junior school to their degree within the same organisation.

According to Department for Education data published this month, only 15 of Norfolk's primary schools are academies, although the number is expected to rise as more schools judged 'inadequate' by Ofsted convert.

The Ten Group said it is 'interested in talking to other junior schools about the possibility of following suit', and has been building up its expertise in the primary sector by working with two respected local primary heads as associates from Costessey Junior School, and St Mary's Junior School, Long Stratton.

A common pattern elsewhere sees primaries join the same group as the secondary school they feed into, as is the case with Watton Junior and the Wayland Academy.

Dick Palmer, Ten Group chief executive, said: 'The fact that we can now offer a progression route right through from Key Stage 2 to degree level, joins up this commitment and creates more opportunities from the point of view of the individual young person.'

Some critics have raised concerns that academy groups that include a college could pressure their school students to progress to that group's further education institution.

Mr Palmer said: 'Increasing the number of young people in Norfolk staying in education and training and gaining higher level skills, including degrees, is a key objective. If they do that completely within Ten Group then that's great. But we are also committed to meeting each individual's needs and finding the path that's right for them. If that means going to a school, college or university outside Ten Group, we will give them the clear, impartial advice and guidance to enable them to take that path.'

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