How the £79m Norwich ‘super schools plan’ unfolded
PUBLISHED: 10:42 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:01 09 May 2019
Back in 2004 council bosses announced a £74m investment in Norwich’s education system which would see five new schools built and major renovations at a city high school. Education correspondent Bethany Whymark looks at how the projects came to fruition and where the schools are now.
It was hailed as a game changer for education in Norwich: a £79m project to build five new primary schools, revamp a high school and support improvements at two dozen other schools.
Announced in 2004, the funding - made available through a PFI (private finance initiative) deal - was designed to help the city prepare for the move to all-through primaries and bolster school standards with state-of-the-art facilities.
According to the team spearheading the Norwich school reorganisation at Norfolk County Council, around half the £60m allocated to build the new primary schools would be spent up front with half used to fund upgrades and maintenance over the next 25 years.
So how and when were the schools delivered, and where are they now?
Mile Cross Primary
The new Mile Cross Primary School, opened in October 2008, was an amalgamation of three schools - Dowson First, Norman First and Mile Cross Middle - which were demolished before the new school was erected on the former Norman First School site in Brasier Road.
The 420-place school cost £5.9m to build and also included a 52-place nursery.
Despite being in one of the city's - and country's - most deprived areas, the school is ranked as outstanding by Ofsted. When it was given the rating across the board in December 2017, headteacher Stuart Allen said it was a "monumental" moment for the school.
According to Ofsted Mile Cross Primary is at capacity, with 465 pupils aged three to 11 on its roll.
The 360-place Lionwood Junior School in Wolfe Road opened in September 2008 on the former site of Thorpe Hamlet Middle School.
The £5.1m school was built close to the woodland from which it derives its name.
Its first headteacher, Sarah Shirras, said the building and grounds would be an "inspiring place to learn and work".
Lionwood officially replaced the middle school in September 2007, but pupils were based across the road at the former Wellesley First School site while their new school was built.
After scoring a grade three (satisfactory) rating in its first two Ofsted inspections the school was ranked good in 2012, a rating it has held since. Its most recent report in October 2016 - which said the school had 274 pupils in its roll - ranked leadership and pupil development as outstanding.
You may also want to watch:
Heartsease Primary School was one of the first PFI schools to open in September 2007, having cost £5m to build.
The 420-place school in Rider Haggard Road was formed from the amalgamation of three schools - Heartsease First, Woodside First and Nursery Community and Heartsease Community Middle.
It was ranked outstanding by Ofsted in 2016 after it became an academy, when it reportedly had around 560 pupils. It remains part of the HEART Education Trust, which was established in 2013.
Like Heartsease Primary, Lakenham Primary School opened to pupils in September 2007, had 420 places and cost £5m to build.
Despite being rated good with outstanding features by Ofsted in December 2015, it was included in a list of schools at risk of "coasting" compiled by this newspaper in early 2016 using exam data.
The new category was announced by the government in 2015 to identify schools it believes are not stretching their pupils enough; those which did not show improvement faced being turned into academies or transferring to a new academy sponsor.
The £4.1m Bluebell Primary School in Lovelace Road was the last of the PFI schools to formally open in October 2008.
It replaced Blackdale Middle School and Northfields First School and comprised a 210-place school and 26-place nursery.
As in Thorpe Hamlet, the pupils were ready to move before the new school was built and were educated at the former Blackdale School site at first.
The school got off to a stuttering start with inspectors. It was ranked grade three by Ofsted for eight years - satisfactory in 2008 and 2012 then requires improvement in 2014 - and in 2016 it was named alongside Lakenham Primary among schools in Norfolk which were at risk of "coasting".
However, a concerted effort by senior leaders led it to secure a good judgement in May 2016, when it had 254 pupils on its roll.
At the time, headteacher Trudi Sharred said the school wanted to "continue improving".
Taverham High School
Alongside the new primary school projects, funds were put aside to build new classrooms at Taverham High School to replace 14 mobile classrooms.
When the funds were announced in 2004, headteacher Graham Porter told this newspaper he was "delighted" with the investment and that the money would help build a new block with classrooms, labs and workshops for the school's 1,100 pupils.
The phased £17m project took two years to complete and the new buildings were officially opened by Sir Trevor Brooking in September 2008.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.