‘United we stand’ is the message from Dereham’s Neatherd High School as its leaders explain academy move

Neatherd High School, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Neatherd High School, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Senior leaders of a high school in Dereham have offered reassurances that their decision to apply for academy trust status was designed to protect its valuable heritage and reputation rather than make vast changes.

At a meeting at the Neatherd High School on Monday evening headteacher Peter Devonish, chair of governors Gill Spillman, parent governor Bob Hewson and deputy head Chris Smith explained that despite previous reservations the time was right for the school to form a multi-academy trust (MAT).

They said they had spent many hours in preparation and had visited other schools in a similar position before coming to their decision.

Ms Spillman said: 'We feel we are in a good position to move forward and there is an opportunity for other schools to join us.'

Mr Devonish, pictured, added: 'We want to protect the valuable heritage and reputation of this school which has been serving the community for over 100 years.

'This seems to be the best way of preserving what we have here. We have a very happy school with a good results record, and excellent teaching and support staff. But local authority support is disappearing.'

He said they were looking to form a small MAT, joining forces with between three and five other schools to share resources and best practices, but would not be touting for business. While Neatherd was taking the lead in forming the MAT it would be in no way superior to any schools joining.

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'It is up to local primary schools to make their choice, and each school will continue to have their own head who is an important part of their community, is established and has local support so why would we change that?

'I think we have a lot to offer our colleagues at primary schools. We want to be changing structures not allegiances because united we stand and divided we fall.

'We all have a vested interest in the children of this proud Norfolk market town who we want to be doing well and getting a good education and good jobs.

'We want to preserve the special aspects of our school and work together.'

He stressed there would be no changes to teaching staff, catchment area, admissions policy, intake numbers or curriculum.

'The system will change not the day to day practices,' he said.

During almost an hour of questions parents, other school leaders and those working in the education system raised many pertinent issues and concerns from funding to the workings of the trust.

Mr Smith said while the level of funding would not change from the DfE it could be possible to attract additional funds through sponsorship.

'None of this is detrimental to what we have got, it is about preserving it,' he said.

Concerns were also raised about what would happen if one of the schools went into special measures or wanted to leave the trust. Mr Devonish said the trustees would be able to move budgets around the schools to spend it where it was most needed.

He added: 'We would need to make careful choices about which schools would join the MAT and we can't be forced to accept a certain school.'

Do you think the school is making the right decision? Email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk.