Ministers positive about academy plans

STEVE DOWNES Education chiefs have had a “positive” response from the government about plans to make a King's Lynn high school Norfolk's second academy, it emerged last night.

STEVE DOWNES

Education chiefs have had a "positive" response from the government about plans to make a King's Lynn high school Norfolk's second academy.

They could decide to press ahead with the scheme at the Park High School by the end of the month.

Norfolk County Council admitted for the first time last night that it was in talks with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on the academy proposal - revealed exclusively in the EDP last month.

With the children's services review panel set to discuss it on Wednesday, the council released information about how the scheme could work - including a pledge that any pupils at the school at the time of the change would be guaranteed an academy place.

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, said the new school to replace the Park High could be built on another site as the town's three high schools were "very close to one another".

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She said the academy - which could be open by 2009 - would "lead to even better school attendance and higher aspirations".

It was also revealed that the scheme was being drawn up in close partnership with the College of West Anglia, at King's Lynn.

Alison Croose, chairman of the school's governors, said: "Making the Park High an academy would hasten current broadening of the curriculum to meet the needs and aspirations of students in the academic field and vocational training."

The matter can only begin to be fully explored if the county council decides to submit a formal expression of interest. That decision could be made at the next cabinet on January 29. The next step would be for education secretary Alan Johnson to approve it, then there would be a 10-month feasibility study by the DfES and consultation. If it went ahead, the government would pour in up to £25m for the rebuild - with as yet unidentified local sponsors contributing £2m and having some influence over admissions policy.

Plans are at an advanced stage to create the first city academy in Norfolk, on the site of Heartsease High in Norwich - the brainchild of Christian businessman Graham Dacre and the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James.