Plans for separate sixth form at Neatherd High School in Dereham are killed off by Norfolk County Council

The plan to split Dereham Sixth Form College provoked protests from students. Picture: Ian Burt

The plan to split Dereham Sixth Form College provoked protests from students. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A high school's controversial plan to set up its own sixth form in Dereham has been killed off after Norfolk County Council took control of the school's finances and announced plans to sack its governors.

Neatherd High School announced in February plans to break away from Dereham Sixth Form College, which it had run in partnership with Northgate High School since 1977.

The move sparked protests, and last month Norfolk County Council issued a formal warning notice to Neatherd to stop its plans - the first time it has done so for a school judged 'good' by Ofsted.

The school's governors did not agree to all the terms of the warning notice, and now the council has now declared the school 'eligible for intervention'.

It has taken control of the school's finances, and started the process of removing the governing body, and replacing it with an interim executive board. The decision final decision will be made by Tim Coulson, the regional schools commissioner.

Gordon Boyd, the council's assistant director for education, said: 'We are now overseeing financial planning by the school to ensure that existing arrangements for Dereham Sixth Form College are not compromised.

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'The current joint sixth form offers a wide variety of subjects which would be unlikely to be made available at two smaller, separate sixth forms.

'Our aim now is to see governance of the current arrangements strengthened through a newly convened management steering group that will ensure the Dereham Sixth Form College continues to be academically successful and highly respected.'

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Neatherd had argued that progress at Dereham Sixth Form College had not been as good as hoped over the last few years, but the council said it 'generally provides a good education for its learners with a small number of subjects in need of specific improvement'.

In a letter to parents today, Neatherd chair of governors Gill Spillman said: 'You will also know, from letters sent to you earlier in April, that Norfolk County Council has expressed concerns about this proposal.

'As a governing body we were committed to a separate sixth form and plans were shared with Norfolk County Council. However, we have not been able to allay their concerns, and as a result Norfolk County Council has exercised its powers to intervene in overseeing the running of the school on a temporary basis.'

Students who accepted places at the proposed Neatherd sixth form for September will be offered places at Dereham Sixth Form College.

The letter added: 'You can rest assured that over the coming weeks our concentration on our students' GCSE exams will remain undiminished and we would like to take this opportunity to give our good wishes to those who are sitting exams.'

The council has told Neatherd that is must allow Northgate to lead the way on plans for the sixth form college to start with.

Alan Jones, chair of governors at Northgate, said: 'The headteacher and governors continue to work closely with the leadership team at Dereham Sixth Form College to ensure that all Year 13 courses from September 2016 will be delivered, and that all students who have received an offer to start at the college in September can do so as planned.

'We are all working together to continue to manage and develop Dereham Sixth Form College, which is academically successful and highly respected, and to make sure our students are fully prepared for their impending examinations.'

Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT, said the last two months had been a 'roller coaster ride' for staff, and added he was 'absolutely delighted' by the news a single sixth form would continue in the town.

He said: 'Dereham has a reputation for education for all. Now we can hopefully go back to staff and pupils working corroboratively in the town for the benefit of all.'

Howard Turner, spokesman for the Parent Action for Dereham Sixth Form College group, said: 'From our point of view, we are relieved. We can't say we are happy, as we believe this should never have happened in the first place.'

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