Headteacher outlines early successes at official opening ceremony for Thetford Alternative Provision Free School

Left to right: Nico Dobben (headteacher), Elizabeth Truss MP, Christopher Tomlinson (deputy headteac

Left to right: Nico Dobben (headteacher), Elizabeth Truss MP, Christopher Tomlinson (deputy headteacher), Christine Oakes (chair of governors) - Credit: Archant

A strong turnout from the Thetford community has helped a pioneering free school celebrate its official opening.

Elizabeth Truss MP unveils a plaque at the opening of the Thetford Alternative Provision Free School

Elizabeth Truss MP unveils a plaque at the opening of the Thetford Alternative Provision Free School - Credit: Archant

The Thetford Alternative Provision Free School opened in September 2013 at a temporary home in the Guide and Scout Activity Centre in Two Mile Bottom, before moving permanently to the Thomas Paine Sixth Form Centre on Thetford Academy's south campus.

Matt Mosby, 15

Matt Mosby, 15 - Credit: Archant

Education minister and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss this afternoon unveiled a plaque at the official opening ceremony of the school, which educates children who have trouble fitting into mainstream schools.

Kai Williams, 14

Kai Williams, 14 - Credit: Archant

She said: 'I think it's absolutely the right aim that all our children get the support and help they need to fulfil their potential, whatever that potential is.'

Ms Truss added: 'You have blazed a trail that others will want to follow and know about.'


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Setting up the school has been a long-term project for headteacher Nico Dobben, and the first application was rejected, before it received the green light last year on its second attempt.

It opened with 20 pupils, and will be allowed to expand to up to 40 next year.

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Mr Dobben said the school's early successes included increasing the attendance of all its pupils, some of whom rarely if ever went to their previous school. The average increase in attendance has been 25pc.

He said the behaviour of pupils had improved during the year, with a 20pc decrease in behaviour issues since the first term.

The school is also celebrating the success of its seven current year 11 pupils, five of whom have firm offers of an apprenticeship or a college place, and the remaining two of whom have college interviews coming up shortly.

June Daw said that when her son Thomas Macrow was at normal school she was in tears every morning trying to get him to attend, but he is sad to leave the free school now that he has come to the end of year 11.

She said: 'There is more assistance and the teachers have more time to listen, and have more understanding of the children than they do in the bigger school.'

What do you think about alternative provision? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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