Fight against Inspiration Trust merger of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy and Trafalgar College

There are proposals for a merger of Trafalgar College and Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: D

There are proposals for a merger of Trafalgar College and Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: David Hannant/James Bass - Credit: Archant

Parents say they hope to halt a proposed merger between two high schools in Great Yarmouth.

The Inspiration Trust yesterday announced plans to combine Trafalgar College, in Thamesfield Way, and Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, in Salisbury Road.The proposal, which is now subject to a public consultation, would see the students at Trafalgar - which opened last September - moved to the Charter academy site.

It would see 'substantial investment' in the Salisbury Road site to allow it to accommodate 1,500 pupils, and though the trust has not yet confirmed what will happen to staff, they say they expect the 'majority' to relocate to the merged school.

But it has left many parents at Trafalgar angry - and a Facebook group, Keep Trafalgar College Separate, has been set up by parent Jimmy Dwyer to bring those concerned together.

'Having spoken to parents, I think most do want to see it stopped,' he said. 'Personally, I do like what the Inspiration Trust have done with the schools that my children have gone to, but this just seems too soon.

'There seems to be a real difference in ethos between the two schools - at Trafalgar they can have a laugh with teachers and it's more relaxed, but at the high it's much more strict.


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'I wouldn't necessarily have a problem if this was longer-term, but it seems too soon.'

On the group, parents have said they are 'disgusted' and 'very disappointed' with the merger, with many saying their children are happy at Trafalgar.

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Why the outcry?

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy has hit headlines in recent weeks over its strict behaviour rules. Though the original policy was later softened, it initially included rules such as sick buckets in classrooms for unwell pupils, walking in single file and limits on toilet breaks.

The school released a revised policy after dividing opinion, but many parents feel it is still too strong and several have taken their children to new schools.

Equally, many parents chose to send their children to Trafalgar College, led by principal Ian Burchett, for its extended day - the school does not believe in homework but instead has a longer school day and a wide range of extra-curricular clubs.

Several parents have said their children are very happy at Trafalgar, and do not want a change in the ethos of the school.

What will happen to the Thamesfield Way site?

The site is owned by the Department for Education, and leased to the Inspiration Trust. They have said the government will work with Great Yarmouth Borough Council to decide on its future, but have said they will not profit from any sale.

Technically, the new school would be Trafalgar College, but would be renamed Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.

But what about the new school building for Trafalgar?

When it opened, the trust said the converted office building for Trafalgar, formerly home to oil and gas firm Perenco, was only a temporary site. Last December they revealed artists impressions of a new, £20m school building they hoped to secure the go-ahead for. At the time, the trust said they hoped to apply for planning permission for the new site, but this bid was never submitted.

When would this take place?

Both academies would operate separately until August 2018, and in September 2018 the schools would formally merge. Existing Trafalgar College students would remain at Thamesfield Way as year eight and nine students.

All new year seven pupils would attend the merged school.

In September 2019, when building work at Salisbury Road would be completed, all pupils would study at the merged school.

The trust would also seek permission for a sixth form to open on site from 2019. At the moment, the agreement is for Trafalgar to open one in 2021, but as there would be year 11 children at the merged school from day one, the date would need to be brought forward.

Why is it being done?

The trust's chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza says the school-age population in the area has grown slower than forecast by the local authority.

She said 'the time is now right to reassess secondary provision in the town', and the trust believes parents and pupils would be best served by a 'single, enlarged high school'.

How much has this cost the public purse?

In short, it's difficult to say.

The Department for Education gives free school trusts a project development grant to cover the costs of preparing to open the school, and extra funds that allow schools to pay for essential costs.

There are also costs associated with site acquisition, construction and lease costs.

Though much of this information is published for older free schools, it has not been made public by the government for Trafalgar. We have asked for this information.

Because the school that will remain open will technically be Trafalgar, money that would have been spent on its new building will transfer to the Salisbury Road site for improvements.

How many pupils are involved?

Trafalgar College currently has 163 pupils, and a capacity of 240.

How can I get involved?

Meetings to discuss the changes will take place at Trafalgar College on September 28 and Great Yarmouth Charter Academy on October 12.

The consultation will run until October 15 - you can email your thoughts to communications@inspirationtrust.org

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