Wymondham College is Norfolk’s first ‘new wave’ academy
History was made for Norfolk today as Wymondham College became the first of the new wave of academies in the county.
The south Norfolk boarding school got the go-ahead yesterday evening – along with three other state boarding schools across the country – to change its status, following months of detailed negotiations with the Department for Education (DfE).
As a school rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted, Wymondham College did not have to go through the traditional circuitous route to become an academy, and also did not need to line up an external sponsor.
But the fact that it is a boarding school complicated the process, and there was doubt until the last minute that the red tape would be cleared away to enable the academy to launch this morning.
Principal Melvyn Roffe said he was 'delighted' that education ministers had signed off the funding agreement.
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He said: 'The process to get to where we have got has not been straightforward, but we are now looking forward to having a level of autonomy which we've not had before.'
The status means Wymondham College will get its funding direct from the government, rather than via Norfolk County Council.
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But Mr Roffe said: 'We are looking forward to still being part of the Norfolk family of schools and working closely with the county council.'
He added: 'This will enable us to come up with some imaginative solutions to issues. There won't be a sudden difference, but over time we will have the ability to mould things and change things in ways we can't do at the moment.'
He said one example was that today, year eight students and their parents would be told about changes to the year nine curriculum, which would mean they would spend three years studying for their GCSEs, rather than the two that was currently prescribed by the national curriculum.
Wymondham College is already the lead sponsor of Thetford Academy, which replaced Charles Burrell and Rosemary Musker high schools in Thetford when it opened in September 2010.
Norfolk's other academies – which all happened through the former Labour government's chosen route of low-performing schools being sponsored by heavyweight outside backers – are:
n Ormiston Victory Academy Costessey, which opened in September 2010 in the former Costessey High
n Ormiston Venture Academy Gorleston, which opened in the former Oriel High in September 2010
n King's Lynn Academy, which opened in September 2010 in The Park High's buildings
n City Academy Norwich, in the old Earlham High, having opened in September 2009
n Open Academy, which opened in the old Heartsease High in Norwich in September 2008 and moved into a new building last September.