Gresham’s School, Holt overhaul ‘set back six months’

A radical plan to overhaul Gresham's School at Holt to ensure that it goes 'forwards' has been delayed for six months by the rejection of a land development plan.

But, speaking at the school's speech day, headmaster Philip John said an announcement would shortly be made about the next steps in the strategic plan.

Mr John also used his speech to urge the government to axe modular exams, which allow young people to repeatedly retake tests until they pass.

Mr John said: 'I announced two years ago that the governing body and senior staff at Gresham's were to begin working on a new strategic development plan to drive the school forward – the remit of the plan was to be far reaching, tackling such issues as education strategy and developing a new curriculum.

'There was to be a new provision for the Sixth Form. The new proposals included radical reform of the finance, marketing, governance, management and organisational structure of the school and by establishing a strong foundation, create stronger links with our alumni association, support a need for improved facilities in boarding, music and sport for example, but most importantly to raise funds for bursaries and scholarships, an issue so closely aligned to our charitable object, which will relieve the burden on existing parents.'

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He said the process was 'on its way to completion' and a 'great deal' had been achieved, but added: 'What we have done so far is not enough to take us to where we want to go.'

The school, which dates back to 1555 and now has 500 fee-paying pupils, wanted to put homes on a field between Norwich Road and the bypass which would have helped fund major improvements such as modernising an ageing boarding house and pre-prep school.

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But the site, which drew major traffic concerns from residents of nearby Grove Lane, was rejected by government inspector Paul Dobsen as the only major amendment to North Norfolk's Local Development Framework planning blueprint.

He said the 120-home Gresham's site was in a rural setting that was too far detached from the town centre, and would result in an 'anomalous outlying residential estate'.

Speaking after the speech day, Mr John said: 'We have been knocked back a bit by the planning issue. We are having to be a bit smarter about how we fund raise and put the focus on our foundation. We've probably been knocked back six months.'

During the speech, Mr John added: 'Our pupils must be given the best possible start by preparing them for an ever changing and uncertain life at university and beyond.

'The current national assessment structure in our schools could, with its focus on modularity, be accused of doing just the opposite.

'Let us hope that the current government's proposals for curriculum reform identify this problem and consign modular examinations to the education scrap heap.'

Guest speaker at the event on July 2 was Lord Deben, the former Tory cabinet minister Sir John Gummer.

He urged pupils to go out and grasp opportunities and 'have a go'. He recalled his own school days and the excitement of heading out to adult life.

The afternoon also saw the farewell address from Anthony Duckworth-Chad, outgoing chairman of the board of governors, who hands over to Andrew Martin Smith, warden of the Fishmongers' Company.

? On Wednesday, the school announced its International Baccalaureate Diploma results with an average diploma score of 34 points and a top mark of 44 (out of 45) for Connie Birch, head of school.

She was closely followed by Gerrit Duchting with 40 points and Alex Heider on 39 points.

Diplomas were awarded to 94pc of students against a worldwide average in 2010 of 81pc.

The IB diplomas are an alternative to A-levels and are considered by some schools to be both more rigorous and a better preparation for university.

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