New academy must make radical progress to close attainment gap

The Neslon Academy has been officially opened, after being renamed from Clackclose Primary School in

The Neslon Academy has been officially opened, after being renamed from Clackclose Primary School in Downham Market - Academy Principal Louise Ward and College of West Anglia Principal David Pomfret, with pupils, from left, Zain Nyarko (8), Khalid Heffernan (10), Leon Thompson (9) and Lily Robinson (11). Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The headteacher of a primary school that is starting a new life as an academy has said it needs to make dramatic levels of improvement – because pupils' achievement is too far behind the national average.

Louise Ward, principal of new Nelson Academy in Downham Market, said: 'If we made expected progress, we would never close the gap.'

She said pupils had been 'short-changed' at the former Clackclose Community Primary School – which was put into special measures by Ofsted in 2012 – and that ambitious targets had to be set to turn it around.

For example she wants the share of pupils at Key Stage One achieving level three in maths to rise by nearly a third, from 11pc to 33pc.

She also wants the amount of Key Stage One pupils reaching level three in writing to more than double – from 9pc to 20pc – and for 70pc of children in year one to pass a phonic screening test. 35pc passed it last year.

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Of the targets, Mrs Ward said: 'They need to be ambitious because the children have been short-changed for too long.

'The attainment gap between the levels our children obtain and the national expectations are far too big. Our children need to make very good progress to close the gap.'

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She hopes the involvement of College of West Anglia (CWA) Academy Trust, which is sponsoring the new academy in Nursery Road, Downham Market, will help it to make the necessary improvement.

CWA principal David Pomfret said it was part of the college's approach to establish a 'family of academies' in west Norfolk.

The CWA already sponsors the Downham Market and King's Lynn academies but also hopes to become involved in the King Edward VII School and Eastgate Primary School, both in Lynn.

Mr Pomfret said: 'This family approach is about the trust supporting and working closely with schools in our community.'

He said the college could bring a lot of experience to the new academy, as it already runs early years education courses at its main Lynn campus for people aged over 16.

He added that those from the trust would work closely with the school to monitor performance and help bring about improvements in teaching, leadership and governance where needed.

Mrs Ward, who took over at Clackclose in September 2012, said she and her vice-principal would also observe lessons and give feedback to teachers on how to improve, before returning later to check the changes have been made.

'Almost all of our teachers now have successfully taken part in the improving teacher programme,' she said.

'Increasingly, our teachers are being graded as outstanding in inspections.'

Do you have a view about academies? Write, giving your full contact details, to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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