Yarmouth’s new Academy school pupils face a 45-hour week
A GREAT Yarmouth school has divided parents over its decision to become an academy and introduce a controversial new timetable that will see some children staying as late as 6pm.
Parents at Greenacre Primary School were informed by letter on Wednesday that, following public consultation, governors had decided to pursue the academy route from September.
Headteacher Bill Holledge, 33, said most parents had been reassured about the changes, but one father who contacted the Mercury said he had lodged a protest petition to the governors with more than 110 signatures obtained from other parents and local people.
Builder Tony Blencowe said he is considering withdrawing his son Jack, six, concerned by the long school day which will stop him continuing his karate classes.
The Dickens Road school will herald in the new era by changing its name to Great Yarmouth Primary Academy and adopting the vision statement, 'Changing lives through excellence'.
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Mr Holledge, who has overseen a dramatic improvement in academic standards, bringing the school out of special measures, revealed that under the new regime, the school day for pupils in years five and six would end at 6pm.
At the end of standard lessons at 3.30pm, those youngsters would be given a school-supplied snack and drink.
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Then from 3.45pm to 5pm they would be offered a high-quality, free programme of extra-curricular activities, ranging from sport and dancing to IT and horse-riding; from 5pm to 6pm they would be doing homework and reading in school, freeing them from the need to do it at home.
After October half-term, the plan is for youngsters in years three and four to join in the extra-curricular programme.
The school is being sponsored by insurance company boss Theodore Agnew, who lives locally and also sponsors the David Copperfield Saturday school in the town, which provides youngsters with extra help in maths and English at a low cost.
Mr Agnew, who is funding new school uniform sweatshirts, will be chairman of a board of trustees which will set the strategic direction of the school.
He, in consultation with the other trustees, who include Norwich's Ormiston Victory Academy principal Rachel de Souza, was responsible for the new name.
Mr Holledge said some parents had raised initial concerns about the academy plan and longer school day, but most had been reassured when he talked to them, and the response to the consultation had been 'generally positive'.
He said: 'Some parents thought the children would just be doing more of the same, and were not aware of the extra-curriculum activities, and that they would be free.'
In the letter to parents, he said that the idea of a free after-school club for younger children was being explored for families who might have difficulty collecting their children twice.
Mr Holledge said he and the governors had been keen on becoming an academy because of the extra freedoms and resources through sponsorship that it would bring.
He sees it as building on the school's progress which has already been commended by Ofsted; some children who had previously been deemed to have special educational needs were now making rapid progress as a result of effective teaching and additional support.