UPDATE: Headmaster of Gresham’s School at Holt defends decision to become first in Norfolk to scrap A-levels

A Norfolk headmaster has defended his school's decision to be the first in Norfolk to scrap A-levels - despite acknowledging some parental opposition.

And he has admitted that the rejection of a land development plan last year had made the school 'more cautious' about funding improvements.

Gresham's School at Holt announced that from September 2015 it would scrap A-levels in favour of the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBD) - which it hopes will give students a headstart in the race for university places.

The surprise move is the next stage of a long-term development plan that was blown off course last year when an inspector rejected its bid to put 120 homes on a field between Norwich Road and the Holt bypass to help fund major improvements such as modernising an ageing boarding house and pre-prep school.

The move to the IBD is the first phase of the re-evaluated plan, and includes a �6.5m revamp of the existing sixth form centre.

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Headmaster Philip John said the rejection of the land deal was 'very disappointing' for the school.

He said: 'It made us reassess how we looked at the development plan, which hasn't changed particularly.

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'We are still looking at gradual improvement, and part of that is the sixth form development. There are also plans for a new music centre and redevelopment of the sports facilities.

'Given the land sale issue, we are being more cautious about financing the development plan.'

The school, which boasts former pupils including the poet WH Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten, aims to make itself the 'leading pre-university experience in East Anglia' by moving to the IBD.

Mr John said: 'We currently run both A-levels and the IBD. It's very difficult to resource both systems. We considered the IBD to be a safer, more consistent and consolidated programme than A-levels.

'There's no doubt that the IBD does better prepare students for university and for work.'

Amid concerns from some parents, he added: 'There are those parents who are extremely supportive of the move, there are those who value the Gresham's education and are prepared to see how it progresses, and there's a number of people who are opposed to it because they are opposed to it.

'What we are hoping is that gradually we will win those people over by explaining how it will work and how it will benefit their children.'

He added: 'I hope that people will see that the essence of a Gresham's education will not alter at all. We feel that parents will accept that once they realise it won't impact on the Gresham's style of education.'

The IBD was introduced at Gresham's in 2007. A spokesman said: 'It has proved increasingly popular and successful with the students, who have achieved some outstanding results.

'Gresham's now has an international reputation as an IBD centre of excellence with students progressing this year to some of the world's most prestigious universities including Cambridge, UCL and Yale.'

The new sixth form, which is still at the planning stage, will include state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities, adaptable social areas and separate boarding accommodation for upper sixth formers.

The development will include a redesigned and more flexible timetable and upgraded sporting, musical and arts facilities.

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