Funding concerns over Costessey academy

Steve DownesPlans for four new Norfolk academies - including one at Costessey - have moved to the brink of approval, despite a 'lack of government clarity' over funding.Steve Downes

Plans for four new Norfolk academies - including one at Costessey - have moved to the brink of approval, despite a 'lack of government clarity' over funding.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet yesterday agreed to close Costessey High on Middleton Crescent, Oriel High at Gorleston, Rosemary Musker and Charles Burrell at Thetford, and The Park High at King's Lynn.

The move paves the way for them to be replaced by four academies, including a split-site facility at the two Thetford schools - if the government signs off the plans by July 31.

The report to cabinet warned that there was a race against time to get that permission in place ahead of the academies' planned opening for the new school year in September.

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At the meeting, children's services director Lisa Christensen admitted the state of the public finances and government plans to expand the academies programme but focus on higher performing schools made it a 'complex issue'.

She said: 'We are in a situation where there's a lack of clarity from the government in terms of the flow of money. We are in urgent discussions with the Department for Education to get clarity on the funding that may come our way.'

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The Costessey academy is under lead sponsor Ormiston Trust, with principal-designate Rachel de Souza already in place after being headhunted from Barnfield West Academy in Luton.

Scores of voluntary groups will face big increases in the cost of hiring school facilities to provide sport and clubs for Norfolk children.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet agreed the proposals, which will see the cost of hiring some facilities almost double and the subsidy reduced from 25pc to 15pc.

At present, just 102 out of 435 Norfolk schools hire out their premises out of hours, with some refusing to do so because the charges do not meet their costs.

Some of the 210 groups that use schools hit out at the proposals, which they branded a 'kick in the teeth' to the voluntary sector. But cabinet unanimously agreed the recommendations.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said: 'This was raised by the schools forum because schools were having difficulties in covering their costs. There's been no review of the charges since 1995. We cannot continue to charge 1995 prices in 2010.'

Council leader Daniel Cox said: 'It's hardly surprising that less than one-quarter of our schools allow use of their premises. It's a waste of our resources to not have them used.'

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