Norwich school to press on with academy plans

Governors at a greater Norwich school have decided to press on with plans to become an academy.

But the governing body at Hellesdon High School will hold off its application until October this year to see if any other high schools would be interested in applying as part of a group.

This week's decision followed a month-long consultation with parents, teachers, pupils and others with an interest in the Middletons Lane school.

As previously reported, the coalition government recently changed the criteria for schools wishing to become academies.

From April, the government expanded the conversion programme to all schools that were 'performing well' – with stable or improving results above or moving towards the national average – and judged by Ofsted to have the capacity to improve.

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If a group of high schools do form an academy chain, it would be a first for Norfolk.

Gerard Batty, head at Hellesdon High, said: 'The governors voted in principle to become an academy but we want to see if any other schools would like to join us in a chain of high schools. It's never good to be totally isolated and there are some really good models of high schools working together as a chain.

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'If we don't find other schools to go in with, we will make an application to become a stand-alone academy.'

Mr Batty did not say which schools they will be contacting but said it would be four or five high schools. 'We held an extensive consultation and we widely consulted, partly due to the fact that the Evening News gave us such good exposure,' added Mr Batty. 'There were lots of arguments for and far fewer against. We felt this was the best decision.'

There had been some concerns about Hellesdon High, which is currently in a cluster with nearby infant, primary and junior schools, becoming an academy. Alan Waters, deputy leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'Hellesdon is a successful local community comprehensive in the public sector – it should stay that way.'

Last summer, Hellesdon High saw its best examination results with 60pc of its students achieving five or more GCSEs at grade A*-C, including English and maths. An Ofsted inspector also said the school, which was rated 'satisfactory' in its last inspection in 2009, had made 'good progress in making improvements' when they visited earlier this year.

The school, which specialises in technology, science and maths, is not likely to become an academy until early 2012 and would retain its name and uniform. As part of an academy chain, it is likely the schools would each have their own headteacher, board of governors, ethos and identity.

Under academy status, schools are free from local authority and national government control, able to set their own pay and conditions for staff, have more freedom in what is taught and have the ability to change the length of terms and school days.

Is your school thinking of becoming an academy? Call Evening News reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email

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