Success and failure for applications for new high schools in Norwich

Education secretary Michael Gove on the site of the new school buildings at the Ormiston Victory Aca

Education secretary Michael Gove on the site of the new school buildings at the Ormiston Victory Academy, Costessey, with principal Rachel de Souzal. Photo: Steve Adams

For one set of prospective parents, delight. For another, disappointment.

Education secretary Michael Gove passed judgment on proposals for two new free school high schools in Norwich on Tuesday.

Plans for the Jane Austen College, a combined high school and sixth form for 1,100 students specialising in English and the humanities, received the go-ahead, while those for a smaller high school to complement the existing Free School Norwich primary school did not.

For Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust which is behind the Jane Austen plans, work turns to finding a location, confirming a principal designate and agreeing details with the Department for Education before it received government funding.

She said: 'We are looking at three possible locations. All are in central Norwich. We are not allowed to reveal anything yet but we are absolutely delighted by the first choice. It would be a building that would be fitting for a school that has this name.'


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The trust is also behind the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, which will specialise in maths and science and is due to open in September but has yet to receive planning permission for its preferred location in the former fire station in Bethel Street.

She said the trust is 'well ahead of the game' as far as the Jane Austin College is concerned, with more time to address any planning issues.

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The trust has also identified its intended principal, but will not announce her name until after half term. However, Mrs de Souza promised she will be 'one of the strongest principals of this generation'.

The school will follow the national curriculum and aim for 90pc of its students to achieve five good GCSEs, but will especially focus on English, with the school's houses named after Shakespeare, Chaucer, Eliot and Thackeray.

Meanwhile, the Free School Norwich, a primary school which was one of the first primary schools in the country, did not win approval for a 360-student high school which headteacher Tania Sidney-Roberts had described as the 'other half of the bridge'.

Although the next round of applications for free schools will open in September, she said the success of the Jane Austen College meant she had no plans to resubmit her own high school proposal.

However, she said her focus could now shift to opening more primary schools in the city, and expand existing services provided by The Free School Norwich for children with dyslexia and language-based learning difficulties.

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