‘It’s the right time to pass over control’ - headteachers take over school improvement scheme

Students from Norfolk and Suffolk schools gather at Thetford Academy for a literature competition. B

Students from Norfolk and Suffolk schools gather at Thetford Academy for a literature competition. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A scheme which has driven up Ofsted ratings in Norfolk by more than 25pc will today enter a new chapter as school leaders take on its running.

Denise Walker, head of Norfolk to Good and Great.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Denise Walker, head of Norfolk to Good and Great. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norfolk County Council launched Norfolk Better to Best (NB2B) three and a half years ago, when the reputation of education in the county was at its nadir and after watchdogs criticised council support for schools.

Since then, and now with 240 schools on its books, the percentage of good or outstanding schools across Norfolk has jumped from 63pc to 89pc.

Now, with council funding ending in April, participating schools will take over day to day running of the new Viscount Nelson Education Network (VNEN), which has been launched today and is thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country.

By signing up, member schools unlock inspection preparation, workshops, meetings and training.

Alex Robinson. New chair of governors at North Walsham High School. Photo: Andy Newman

Alex Robinson. New chair of governors at North Walsham High School. Photo: Andy Newman - Credit: Archant


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The Dereham-based set-up will be overseen by a board chaired by former Norfolk Governors Network chairman Alex Robinson.

He said: 'Experience has shown that networks of schools and school leaders have an important role to play in school improvement.

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'We are making sure that the momentum of collaboration and support can be continued at the lowest possible cost to schools through a social enterprise which is run in the interests of the community it serves.'

Denise Walker, who previously ran NB2B, will become a director of the not-for-profit company, which will effectively own NB2B.

Mrs Walker has said the teamwork encourages more schools to pull up standards.

The initiative, which will be funded through membership fees, was granted £1.5m in council cash over four years.

Chris Snudden, the council's assistant director for education, said the move could see NB2B spread into neighbouring counties.

'We are hugely proud of the success of NB2B and it is now the right time to pass over control to the schools themselves so that they can shape it for the future,' she said.

'The real strength of NB2B is the way the network of schools share their knowledge and experience for their mutual benefit – it's a recipe that really works.'

What are Ofsted ratings like across the county?

As of December last year, 89pc of schools in Norfolk were judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted inspectors, mirroring the national average.

The percentage for primary sat at 90pc, slightly below the national 91pc, though secondary - at 84pc - surpassed England's 79pc. But a regional breakdown shows areas which are still falling below the national average of 89pc across all schools.

For west Norfolk, the figure sits just shy of the national level, at 88pc.

In Breckland, 84pc of schools are good or outstanding, a figure which has risen from 69pc in July 2014.

Great Yarmouth has increased just 5pc in that period, sitting at 70pc - or 23 out of 33 - last December, the lowest in the county.

Schools in north Norfolk remain the best performing by the Ofsted measure, with 98pc - 52 out of 53 - judged good or outstanding.

Do you have an education story? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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