Norwich schools’ merger plan moves forward

Governors in Norwich have voted to go ahead with plans for a merger of two Catholic schools – but not until they have had time to address parents' concerns.

The proposal would see St Thomas More Junior School on Jessopp Road and St John's Infant School on Heigham Road amalgamate to create a single primary school for the area.

Following a series of public meetings this term, the joint governing body for the two sites has now decided to pursue the idea after a 'very clear majority' voted in favour.

But in a letter sent to parents on behalf of governors and acting headteacher Kim Payne it said, following advice from the Diocese of East Anglia, governors would not look to open the new primary school until September 2013.

The letter said: 'This will give the diocese time to further explore the issues surrounding the number of places available for Catholic education in Norfolk. It will also enable the schools to have more time to work together on partnership activities to prepare for a seamless transition to the new school.'

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During the public consultations, parents raised concerns about the merger leading to a reduction in the overall places available to pupils.

The plans would mean a loss of around 120 places across the four junior school years.

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Parents were told St Thomas More had been operating with a number of surplus places recently but the Diocese was 'taking this matter very seriously' and had decided to further develop its planning strategy for Catholic school places in Norwich and surrounding areas.

Worries about traffic congestion outside the primary school, which would be on the existing St Thomas More site, the loss of the infant school site, and the quality of provision at the new school were also addressed in the letter to parents.

It added: 'The governors are committed to building on what is excellent in the curriculum of both schools and to creating a new school which combines and builds upon the strengths of both.

'Please be assured that we would not be considering these changes to our schools if we were not confident that they are in the best interests of the education and well-being of our children.'

Plans for the new school will be available for viewing next half term.

Governors will now ask Norfolk County Council to issue a public notice on their behalf announcing the plans, which would be followed by a six-week consultation. The final decision will be made by county council cabinet members in March 2012.

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