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Free school bid for Norwich city centre

PUBLISHED: 14:25 16 March 2013 | UPDATED: 14:25 16 March 2013

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A free school specialising in English and the humanities could cater for more than 1,000 pupils in the middle of Norwich, if an academy trust’s latest bid is approved.

The team behind the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, due to open in Bethel Street in September, have come up with plans for a city-centre 11-18 high school.

Revealing the proposals, Rachel de Souza, pictured, and David Prior said they hoped the Jane Austen College would help to drive the much-needed improvements across the county.

Ofsted has this week been carrying out a series of focused inspections across Norfolk aiming to discover why the county has such a high proportion of under-performing schools.

Mrs de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust that the school would belong to, said: “For me this drive is about standards. I want central Norwich to have a beacon school – a 90pc A* to C school.

“We believe there is a standards need. There are fabulous schools

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and pockets of good performance across Norfolk and it’s not about criticising others. We want to work with everybody. But a fresh start and a new start can be a hugely powerful thing.”

The academy trust has already made it through the first stage of the free school process and had an interview with department for education officials last week.

Jane Austen College would cater for about 900 pupils in years seven to 11 with a further 200 in its sixth form and would have a central Norwich catchment area.

The trust aims to secure a city centre location but insists it would not be a threat to Norwich’s existing high schools – like the Hewett School and Sewell Park College – or the proposal for The Free School Norwich (High School) by Tania Sidney-Roberts for the same area.

A report by the National Audit Office this week warned that, by September 2014, an extra 256,000 primary and secondary places would be needed nationally.

Mrs de Souza said: “We have just had the latest figures to show that, from year four, there is going to be more pupils than places in the central Norwich area. We know there is an even greater need lower down and we need to get going to get something really excellent set up in that area.”

Students would belong to one of four houses named after some of the country’s literary greats: Shakespeare, Chaucer, Eliot, and Thackeray.

And the curriculum, while covering all the traditional subjects, would have a strong focus on reading and writing.

Mrs de Souza said: “Students will ready every day. We will help them develop really good reading and writing skills from the moment they join us.

“We want to recruit the best teachers possible, particularly in those English and humanities subjects, because we want to be a centre of excellence.”

If approved, the school would also aim to link up with the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form to give students specialising in either maths and science or English and the humanities a chance to include a wider range of subjects in their A-level study.

Mr Prior, who will be chair of governors at Jane Austen College, said: “They will be very complementary.”

An extended school day will allow the academy to work with a selection of local organisations to offer a range of extra curricular activities from drama groups and debating societies to traditional sports clubs.

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