MP shares concerns over Dereham sixth form disruption
- Credit: Ian Burt
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has responded to concerns over the future of Dereham's Neatherd High School and Sixth Form College by writing to the regional schools commissioner for clarification on the measures being taken to ensure students have stability to carry out their studies.
Meanwhile parents have been voicing their strong disappointment at the way Norfolk County Council acted in quashing Neatherd's proposal to create its own sixth form college for the town.
The authority gave the school a warning notice in order to halt its controversial proposal to break up Dereham Sixth Form College.
It has also stated it plans to replace Neatherd's governors with an interim executive board.
But in a letter to Dr Tim Coulson, regional schools commissioner for East of England, Mr Freeman said he was 'greatly concerned by the disruption and uncertainty currently hanging over the futures of Dereham Neatherd High School and Dereham Sixth Form as a whole'.
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He expressed fears that the current situation was having a 'detrimental effect' on many local students at a crucial stage of their education.
He added: 'I would greatly appreciate if you could provide me with an update as to what measures are being taken so as to make sure that students in Dereham have the stability they require for them to perform to the very best of their academic abilities at this time. If we are to raise aspirations within the county it is imperative that first our students have a stable environment in which to perform.'
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While campaign group Parent Action for Dereham Sixth Form called for the separate sixth form proposal to be rejected, other parents have said they believe the Neatherd governors had the school and sixth form students' best interests at heart and should not be removed.
Frances Needham, who has two children at the Neatherd, said: 'I can't see that it will do anyone any good to remove a group of governors who have managed the school so successfully for so many years, and risk the standard of education at the school many parents choose for their children.
'I don't understand why Norfolk County Council, who it seems knew about the Neatherd sixth form proposal last November, only decided in April that the proposal was a complete non-starter from their point of view and that they needed to intervene. They do not seem to have dealt with this in a very timely or constructive way and really seem to be using a very late-arriving sledge hammer to crack a nut.'
'Risking the standard of education at an existing excellent school by removing a board of governors who have been running the school so well is really not going to help secure a good education for children in Dereham, and that should be what we are all trying to achieve.'
Another parent, who did not wish to be named, called the county council's handling of the situation a 'disgrace' and argued that it was only a small minority of parents who were against the proposal for a new sixth form.
She added: 'If they (Norfolk County Council) had such grave concerns of this process, why did they not call a halt to proceedings in a timely manner, instead of leading to the uncertainty for students and staff that now hangs over them, particularly staff who now find themselves with potentially a new employer or possibly redundant?
'This issue has become nothing more than a political battle of egos and public humiliation of a school who dared to try to implement long overdue change and improve standards of education for what has to be its priority, the students of Neatherd. NCC's management of this has been nothing short of a disgrace.'
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