Plans unveiled for Lowestoft schools

RADICAL plans to drive up educational standards and improve exam results for hundreds of Lowestoft schoolchildren were unveiled by the government this week.

RADICAL plans to drive up educational standards and improve exam results for hundreds of Lowestoft schoolchildren were unveiled by the government this week.

The plans will see Kirkley High School made one of Suffolk's first academies, while Denes High School will become part of a local trust with support from a government advisor.

But while head teachers have warmly welcomed the moves, a teachers' union has raised concerns about the proposed speed of the changes and the potential impact on staff.

Announcing the plans, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said it had examined the progress of schools - including Kirkley and Denes - that were given National Challenge status last year because under 30pc of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

Its final report has outlined an action plan for the schools - including fast-tracking moves to make Kirkley High an academy for pupils aged 11-16 as September 2011. This means it will be run by an educational sponsor rather than Suffolk County Council and will have a new management structure.

The Government's plans also involve setting aside money from a �15m national government pot to pay for new buildings on the school's Kirkley Run campus by 2013.

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Head-teacher Richard Pickard said: 'I honestly believe this is the best possible thing that could happen for the school and the community. Academy status will bring significant investment to create a new building and bring extra funding which will help bring about improvements at a more rapid pace.

'We intend to involve students and the community in the planning process to create a facility that will best serve the education of our children and support our community.'

Kirkley High, which is the biggest school in Lowestoft with more than 1,100 pupils, was put on special measures following a damning report by Ofsted inspectors in March last year and an interim executive board was then set up to replace the school's governors.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) local representative Peter Byatt said that some teachers had already raised concerns about the plans.

He said: 'Making these changes by September is really quick, but it should mean that teaching staff will automatically become part of the academy although some senior management posts might change.

'The morale among teachers at Kirkley has been low for some time and these changes won't help. There are lots of very good teachers working very hard, and I hope whoever is put in place to run the new academy will do so in cooperation with staff.'

Denes High School, in Yarmouth Road, is going to be made a National Challenge Trust which will see it partnered with a high-performing Suffolk high school in an attempt to improve GCSE results.

Mick Lincoln, head teacher at Denes, welcomed the recommendations.

He said: 'We recognise that they will help us to further improve outcomes for students at the school. In anticipation of the report we have already begun to form a partnership with another Suffolk high school.

'We look forward to working with them and other partners to develop new and exciting ways of teaching and learning and a wider range of opportunities for our students.

'By becoming a partner in a National Challenge Trust we should gain access to significant extra funding. This will enable to us to help our students to achieve the best they can, both in terms of academic success and in having the skills and aptitudes to be successful lifelong learners,' he said.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people, said: 'Creating an academy (at Kirkley) will see help ploughed in for the leadership and staff.

'At the Denes High School, the National Challenge Trust partnership will allow the school to learn from the experiences and knowledge of another school. We expect, and hope, that neither school will be in the National Challenge banding any more.'

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