New Norwich free school site is unveiled

Claire Heald principal of Jane Austen College outside the building on Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Stev

Claire Heald principal of Jane Austen College outside the building on Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

The new site of Norwich's specialist humanities free school has been revealed.

Jane Austen College will open in September 2014 in office buildings currently occupied by Aviva in Colegate.

The 72,000sq ft five-storey premises will include an auditorium for drama, library, music rooms and study areas for pupils, as well as outdoor spaces for them to socialise, with work beginning once Aviva has moved out in March next year.

The secondary school and sixth form, which is sponsored by the Inspiration Trust and will work in partnership with the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form in Bethel Street, will offer places to 180 pupils in Year 7 and 100 in the sixth form, and grow over the following five years.

Principal Claire Heald said that in finding a home for the school 'our dreams have come true'.

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She said: 'These buildings offer the best location our students. We wanted a city centre building to make the school accessible for people, and close to our partner school, the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form.

'But most importantly it offers us the space and facilities we need: room for teaching spaces, technology and science labs, dance, drama and arts studios and support for our English and arts specialisms.'

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The buildings have been bought for the new school and will require adaptation inside, said Ms Heald, though the costs have not been released.

The college will work in partnership the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form College, which will specialise in maths and science when it opens next September, so that pupils can get specialist tuition according to their subject choices.

Ms Heald said the college had already begun enrolling students, and would begin recruiting teachers in the new year – with a target of 15 staff in the first year, and additional staff recruited as pupil numbers grow.

'Our teachers will have lower teaching allocation than in other schools, so that they have time to focus on their development, learning and preparation,' she said.

'We've had interest from pupils mainly from central Norwich, but they are coming from further afield for sixth form - from Wymondham, Attleborough, Great Yarmouth, Cromer.'

Outdoor space for pupils will be provided behind the college, currently office car parks, with other 'outdoor social space' being sought elsewhere.

The college is in discussions to find other locations for extra-curricular activities on the three days a week when pupils are expected to be in until 5.30pm, and for sports activities and lessons.

Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, said: 'We have spent months scouring Norwich for the best building for Jane Austen College.

'We wanted a site in the centre of the city that would inspire our students and encourage learning. This is an outstanding building.'

An Aviva spokesman said the Colegate offices housed its life insurance business, which would be transferred to other Aviva offices in the city.

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