Downham Market High School joins forces with the College of West Anglia in King’s Lynn to boost academy status bid.

West Norfolk school set to apply to the secretary of state for education to become an academy.

Downham Market High School has joined forces with the College of West Anglia to help its bid to become an academy.

The school's governors have decided that working in partnership with the college (CWA) would help its case in achieving the new status.

Chairman Alison Chapman said: 'We are delighted to announce that we have taken the initial steps to academy status with the college as our sponsoring body. The benefits to the school from working with a local partner with expertise in supporting school improvement, and the opportunity to ensure a co-ordinated and rich range of opportunities post-16 are clear.'

The college is an established sponsor and supported the former Park High School, in Lynn, to become the King's Lynn Academy which has achieved huge improvement since September 2010.

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Its GCSE results last year were the best in West Norfolk.

Mrs Chapman added: 'Downham Market High School has already become a very different place over the last academic year and this decision will further this new beginning as it continues to look at its systems, approaches and methods. The rapid improvement work that has been undertaken at the school by the hard working and dedicated team will continue under the leadership of head teacher Jon Ford, who has already ensured that the groundwork of improvement is in place.'

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The school is one of the largest in East Anglia and has more than 1,700 pupils, including those at its sixth-form.

Head Jon Ford said: 'While there are still challenges ahead, I feel confident that the boost of the move to academy status with an expert but local partner will ensure that the excellent progress being made this year will push us on even faster to ensuring we become an outstanding school for our outstanding pupils'

The governing body will now make a formal request to the secretary of state for education to issue an academy order for the school to convert at the earliest possible opportunity, with the college as sponsor.

CWA principal David Pomfret said: 'We are delighted and excited at the prospect of working with Jon and the team at Downham Market to help transform the school. Ultimately, this is about improving prospects and making a wider difference to the life chances of young people in Downham Market and the surrounding areas. I believe that, as sponsors, we can make a major contribution to this by raising aspirations and performance through a clear vision, ethos, values and leadership.'

Academies are publicly-funded independent schools given extra freedoms including the way they deliver the curriculum. Currently there are 16 academies in Norfolk.

Downham High School was visited by Ofsted in March of last year and inspectors found it to be 'inadequate', although sixth-form provision was effective with above-average attendance.

The government body asked the school to address anti-social behaviour and lack of respect shown by a minority of students.

The school was also asked to ensure all teaching was at 'least good' and to raise standards of attainment for all students.

Ofsted also asked the management to ensure the school had a planned approach to the promotion of community cohesion.

After a follow-up inspection in November, Ofsted inspector Stephen Abbott sent a notice to improve to the school.

'Having considered all the evidence, I am of the opinion that at this time the school is making inadequate progress in addressing the issues for improvement and in raising the students' achievement,' he wrote.

The notice said there had been changes since head Jon Ford arrived in June and some areas highlighted were improving.

'The school has made good progress in improving the effectiveness of senior leaders and the governing body. This has resulted in some improvements in provision. Teachers and other members of staff are mostly responding positively to the higher demands being made of them,' he said.

Downham Market High School is one of the largest in East Anglia partially due to its large catchment area. It is divided between two separate campuses, with the main Bexwell campus teaching students years seven to 11 and the Ryston campus teaching further education to sixth-form students years 12 to 13.

It opened in September 1980 as the amalgamation of three former secondary schools in the town _ Downham Market Grammar, Downham Market Boys' School and Downham Market Girls' School.

This latest news also comes after the Academy Transformation Trust revealed it was seeking government approval to take over nearby Swaffham Hamond's, as well as Hockwold and Methwold community school, in September.

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