Questions still to be answered over Dereham Sixth Form College split decision

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

Key questions remain unanswered after Norfolk County Council killed off controversial plans that would have split Dereham Sixth Form College.

Neatherd High School's announcement in February that it wanted to end the 40-year partnership with Northgate High School that ran the college, and set up its own sixth form, divided the town.

In a move that halts the proposal, the council this week announced it had stripped Neatherd governors of control of the school's finances, and began proceedings to replace them with an interim executive board (IEB), after they failed to fully comply with a formal warning notice issued last month.

However, it is not known who will sit on the proposed IEB, or even if it will be put in place, as a new law passed in March means the final decision now rests with regional schools commissioner Tim Coulson.

The council has told Neatherd that Northgate will take the lead on running the college for the time being, and it is unclear whether Neatherd staff based at the high school will lose hours they currently work at the sixth form college, and see their pay reduced.

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A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'Staff from both schools will continue to provide teaching input at the college. The details of this are currently being determined.'

It has also emerged that all teaching staff who work solely at the college - some of whom are currently employed by Neatherd, and some by Northgate - have taken contracts with Northgate, as have most support staff.

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The council said: 'These arrangements had been made by Northgate to ensure continuous staffing for the students at the college at a time when Neatherd was planning to create its own sixth form.'

The spokesman added: 'All students who were offered a place at Neatherd's planned sixth form and had also applied to Dereham Sixth Form College will have a place there this September, subject to their suitability for the course they wish to pursue.

'Dereham Sixth Form College will support all students involved to ensure they are given information and advice about courses and college life.'

Neatherd headteacher Peter Devonish, who remains in his post, said: 'We continue to focus on supporting our Year 11 students in preparing for their forthcoming exams.'

Alan Jones, chair of governors at Northgate, said: '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.'

The council's action was welcomed by Howard Turner, spokesman for the Parent Action for Dereham Sixth Form College group, who said: 'There is an awful lot of effort being put into getting us back to where we were and that effort could have been spent on improving the few subjects that needed improving at Dereham Sixth Form College.'

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