Photo gallery: Great Yarmouth Primary Academy opens to applause

Norfolk's latest academy was officially opened to rounds of applause from teachers and parents alike despite scepticism over changes brought in through the school's new status.

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy - the only of its kind in the town - welcomed dignitaries and guests into its hall to hear songs from the eldest pupils and speeches from teachers and education chiefs as part of the launch ceremony.

Bosses at the Dickens Avenue school, previously known as Greenacre, had sparked concern from parents over the change to academy status and the introduction of a 45 hour week, that keeps pupils in class until 6pm.

But at the launch today (Friday) headteacher Bill Holledge said students had embraced the extra curricular after school activities - including cookery, horse riding, karate and music - and become ambassadors for the new working day, quelling parents' concerns.

'As I think we thought at the beginning, the pupils have been the champions. Even on occasions where parents haven't been confident to start with, very often the pupils have convinced them and said 'I want to stay for the cooking'. I think it's been them that have convinced their parents that they want to stay and get involved,' he added.

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Before the change to academy in September some parents had threatened to pull their children out, and although some pupils have left, Mr Holledge said this was not down to the school's new status - and said demand was now high for more places.

He added: 'There are some pupils who left at the very start of the year and some pupils we gained. The numbers involved are absolutely standard for the turn of the new academic year.

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'We have not seen any change in pupil numbers that we could directly attribute to changes in the academy, and actually now we're absolutely full.

'And we're now starting to get people beating a path to our door.'

Among the dignitaries that attended the launch was minister of state for schools Nick Gibb, schools commissioner Elizabeth Sidwell and Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson who were full of praise for the academy, its teachers and millionaire sponsor Theodore Agnew - who was cheered for his 'determination' to help the school.

Dr Sidwell, who sat in on lessons with Mr Gibb, also heaped praise on pupils and told them her visit had been an 'inspiration'.

'I know the children here are going to be leaders,' she added.

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