Therapist and extra funding helps support pupils at Alderman Peel High School, in Wells
- Credit: Ian Burt
Education chiefs have agreed to fund a therapist for children suffering mental health problems at a north Norfolk high school, while money from the government's pupil premium is increasing opportunities for those from poorer backgrounds.
North Norfolk MP and care minister Norman Lamb visited Alderman Peel High School, in Wells, for a progress report.
Head Alastair Ogle said Norfolk County Council had agreed to contribute £35,000 to employ a therapist for three days a week at the 450-pupil high school.
'I'm delighted that there's been a breakthrough,' he said. 'Like many schools, we have a significant number of children who need added support.
'Since October 2014, we've employed a therapist. The LEA has agreed that they will fund that therapist for three days a week, to support them with their mental health issues.'
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Mr Lamb said he was keen to find out how bringing Alderman Peel and Wells Primary together under a single head was working and whether it offered a model for other schools.
Mr Ogle said the schools now shared a single governing body at a time when both were growing. Numbers at the primary have increased from 143 to more than 200 in eight months.
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'Some of it is people moving to the area, some of it is people from outside the catchment deciding to bring their children here,' he said. 'We're currently in discussion about more classrooms, more facilities.'
Attainment, as well as pupil numbers, is rising. Mr Ogle said league tables showed the progress pupils make at Alderman Peel was 'significantly above the national average'.
Reading is a key priority, with book trees on the walls suggesting new titles for pupils to try.
'Our overall ethos is to develop a love of reading,' said Mr Ogle. 'If you can do that at a young age, children keep reading, keep reading and keep reading.'
Mr Lamb said the Coalition government was making £2.5bn available to schools under its pupil premium. At Alderman Peel, the money equates to an extra £1,300 for each child who qualifies for free school meals, while the primary receives an extra £800 per pupil.
Mr Ogle said the schools used the money in different ways to meet pupils' needs, including extra revision materials, help with school uniforms, additional staffing or providing transport home for those needing to stay behind for extra tuition.
He added a 'cluster', where the High School worked with primaries at Wells, Burnham Market, Hindringham, Blakeney and Langham, enabled specialist teaching in subjects such as IT to be shared between schools.
Mr Lamb said the cluster was helping to drive up attainment. He said: 'I'm really excited about their use of the pupil premium and the impact that's having on children from poorer backgrounds. The pupil premium gives those children that chance to flourish.'
The MP visited a science class, where Year 5 and 6 pupils from Wells Primary had dissected pigs' eyes to learn how they worked.
Sam Kelly, head of science at Alderman Peel, asked them to tell Mr Lamb how the lesson had gone in a single word.
'Amazing, fantastic, brilliant,' children said, before others added: 'Disgusting, gross but fun.'