The last school standing - just one Norfolk high school not taking steps towards academisation

Aylsham High School. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Aylsham High School. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Just one high school out of more than 50 in Norfolk is not taking steps towards becoming an academy, research has shown.

Old Buckenham High School (OBHS). Picture: OBHS

Old Buckenham High School (OBHS). Picture: OBHS - Credit: Archant

Figures from late last year show that 85pc of the county's 52 secondary schools are academies, with the remaining still maintained by the local authority.

But analysis has revealed that all bar one are taking steps towards conversion, with a handful having even converted since.

There has been a surge of schools making the leap in the last few years - in Norfolk alone, the number of schools which made the change rose by 51pc in 18 months. Today, at least 43pc of the county's schools are academies.

But on the way to north Norfolk, there is one which remains content with its maintained status - Aylsham High School.

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The school was the first in the county to form a cooperative cluster trust - the Aylsham Cluster Trust - and is part of the Aylsham Learning Federation, a partnership with nearby schools.

Headteacher Duncan Spalding said the partnerships offered benefits often linked with academy trusts.

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'We formed the cooperative trust because we had a strong track record of working with our nearby schools, and wanted to cement that,' he said. 'We wanted to formalise that relationship, and didn't see that we needed another vehicle to do so.'

MORE: Cofounder of Norfolk's first academy says 'disaster school' was transformed by the change, 10 years on

He said the schools - all in the north Norfolk area - shared improvements plans, headteacher meetings and finance teams - but all maintained independence.

'Structural change can be quite a tumultuous thing and you have to be sure whether to make that, and of the benefits it will bring,' he said.

One of the latest secondaries to make the change is Old Buckenham High School, which is consulting with parents on joining the Sapientia Education Trust, which was founded at Wymondham College.

Headteacher Andrew Fell said: 'For us it's about securing the future going forward, and working with strong, established partners. Our most local primary school is part of the trust so it's about working collaboratively with our partners.'

He said working closely with Wymondham's sixth form would be a benefit for its older pupils, and that their focuses on extra-curricular provision matched well. While the plans are in their infancy, he said feedback received so far had been positive.

What are the others doing?

In a Norfolk County Council document for parents for the 2017/18 school year, 12 schools are listed as maintained. But analysis has shown all but one are either already academies, or takings steps towards becoming one.

Alderman Peel High, Wells - part of the Wensum Trust

Archbishop Sancroft High, Harleston - has applied to become an academy

Broadland High, Hoveton - in talks about joining Ormiston Academies Trust

Dereham Neatherd High - part of the Mid-Norfolk Academy Trust

Framingham Earl High - due to join Sapientia Education Trust soon

Great Yarmouth High - now Great Yarmouth Charter, under Inspiration Trust

Litcham School - has applied to become an academy

Long Stratton High - part of the ieTrust

North Walsham High - negotiations and due diligence talks ongoing about academisation

Old Buckenham High - plans to join Sapientia Education Trust

Smithdon High, Hunstanton - part of West Norfolk Academies Trust

Sprowston High - due to join Right for Sucess Trust this year

Where are the originals?

According to the county council, these are the first five schools to take the plunge and becomes academies. But where are they now?

• Heartsease High School converted in 2008 and was renamed Open Academy. In 2013, it was taken over by the Diocese of Norwich Education Academies Trust, where it remains.

• Earlham High School followed suit in 2009, becoming City Academy Norwich. It was run by Transforming Education in Norfolk group, but in September it was revealed it was due to move to the Bohunt Education Trust.

• Costessey High School became an academy in 2010 under the Ormiston Academies Trust, as Ormiston Victory Academy, which is still is today.

• Similarly, Oriel High School became Ormiston Venture Academy, in Gorleston, under the trust at the same time.

• Park High School, in King's Lynn, became King's Lynn Academy in 2010 under the College of West Anglia Academy Trust. Today, the trust has been reformed as the Eastern Multi-Academy Trust.

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