Attleborough Academy – Vision for the Development of the Site
We have known for some time about the proposals for Attleborough as a town to substantially grow in size and also, that we, as the former Attleborough High School and now Attleborough Academy, are the designated secondary education organisation that would be expanded with this growth of the town.
In view of these proposals, we have been in talks with colleagues at Norfolk County Council Education Department for some time about the strategy to expand our provision in line with the proposed growth of housing. The national estimate for growth is for 14 new students of secondary age to appear for every new 100 houses built. Therefore, with a proposed additional 4,000 houses for the town over the next ten years, this could mean an eventual rise in our roll by over 500 new students, taking our student body to around 1400, including a larger Sixth Form of around 300 students.
We have always been aware that these proposed houses would not all appear at the same time. They will be built and sold gradually in phases and we will have no control whatsoever over which year groups the new students enter. Because it is a national formula estimate, there is also no guarantee that it would definitely be 14 new students per 100 houses. They may well appear needing to go into just one or two of our year groups or they may all be of Primary School age. It simply depends on the profile of the families who move into the town. Unless the completed expanded Academy with all the new buildings were in place before the new students arrive, planning to accommodate them was always going to be a challenge. Clearly, we were not going to have a completed new build before the new houses arrive and so we set about meeting with Norfolk County Council to draw up the Master Plan to stage the growth of the Academy facilities in line with predictions for the rise in student numbers. The Masterplan was originally completed in March 2014 and has been subject to regular updates since.
Due to the expertise and resources in our Academy Chain, Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN Group), we were successful in a bid to receive a portion of the ring-fenced £2 billion available from the Government funded ‘Priority Schools Building Programme’. We were one of only five schools in the County and also one of only 277 schools nationwide to have been chosen. This bid centred around the construction of one of the first stages in the original Master Plan and the current Education Funding Agency (EFA) plan is to replace the current mobile accommodation at the front of the site and incorporate a new reception. This first phase is due to commence building works in this academic year (2017-2018).
Ever since I became Headteacher - now ‘Principal’, I have pledged to develop our site with the needs of the community in mind, so that any new facilities can be of full benefit to the community and not just sit unused and in darkness after the ‘school’ day. I have therefore, attended the many meetings of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group Committee to assist in ensuring that the Academy Master Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan were aligned in proposing facilities that will have mutual benefit for the community and the Academy.
We did, indeed, plan and host the launch of the awareness of the Neighbourhood Plan at the then High School in October 2013, whereby we took the whole school off timetable for a day and all students worked with various experts to propose their own ideas for the future of the town. The whole community were then invited into the school, over a weekend, to view the exhibition of students’ ideas.
Since this time, there have been many meetings of this committee at the Town Hall and it has been heartening to see the determination and the resilience of the members of this committee all pulling towards achieving the best possible results for the town.
Our own vision for the development of the site for community provision has always included two particular opportunities for the growth of community use on the site:
- To develop our Sports provision in conjunction with the development of the Sports provision for the community in the town;
- To provide plans for taking over the current Attleborough Infants School site in order to create a new Sixth form and Community Education and Enterprise Centre.
We therefore drew up our own plans for a possible ‘Sports Village’ some five years ago and presented them at the Community Meeting held at that time. This original plan was centred around extending and developing the current Sport Hall area. Since that time, we have become aware that we are due to be given a tranche of land behind our current playing fields near to the A11. We therefore commissioned LanPro Town Planning Consultants to carry out a feasibility study to explore what we could fit in terms of a community ‘Sports Village’ on this piece of land. If this community Sports Village were ever to be realised, we could possibly convert the current Sports Hall into an Academy/Community Theatre to add an additional community facility to the town. These initial draft plans are still being discussed for integration into the Master Plan/Neighbourhood Plan.
The site of the former Attleborough Infants School (now called Rosecroft Primary), is situated directly between the Academy site and the Adult Education Centre (“ACE” Centre). In the growth plan for the Attleborough area, Rosecroft Primary are due to move off the existing site to relocate to a newly built site along London Road after Christmas 2017. If we are to inherit and develop on what was the Infants School site, then it makes sense to develop a facility that benefits Sixth Form provision for the area as well as benefiting the community in terms of adult training and also, the business and enterprise community. The vision is, therefore, to create a diverse education and training provision on the site that will not only meet the educational needs for Sixth Form students, but will also contribute to fulfil the training needs of the current and future workforce for local Business and Industry. Potentially, it could also incorporate the re-training needs of adults within the community and so we would look to join up this provision with the current ACE Centre rather than stand in competition with it.
The development of a diverse and inclusive provision for Sixth Form age students which will benefit students in the area fulfils a greater need than simply creating another ‘Academically’ focussed provision. It will be prudent and more beneficial for the area, to maintain a Sixth Form with an academic emphasis but also to widen the provision to include a strong technical and vocational element. We have been in discussion about the strategic vision for this site with our partners who form the ‘All Routes’ Partnership for some time. All Routes comprises the five main high schools in the area; Attleborough Academy, Hethersett Academy, Old Buckenham High School, Wymondham College and Wymondham High Academy and also Chapel Road Special School. The development of this type of provision has the complete backing of All Routes as it would be a boost to all students in the area.
Attleborough Academy Norfolk is part of Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN) Group. The TEN Group also includes City College Norwich (CCN) and the University Technical College Norwich (UTCN) who have specific and considerable expertise in technical and vocational education. The collective expertise of the TEN Group in this field is unmatched in this area. This thus gives the proposal unrivalled credibility and makes for an authentic opportunity with the maximum chance of success.
The new provision would facilitate progression to University or employment and it would produce young people who are well rounded and able to access both Higher Education and the world of work, possessing the skills that meet the needs of our local economies. We cannot, however, achieve this vision alone. We will need to create the right employer engagement and curriculum mix whilst still retaining academic rigour and aspiration.
We have already held tentative talks with some local businesses with the idea of setting up sector ‘Academies’ so that we, in a true partnership with local business, can start to fill some of the skills gaps that local businesses are experiencing. This could well mean that local businesses will sponsor or coach, mentor or teach in the new skill centre. Some have expressed a desire to develop rooms and areas on the new site in order to have their own sector Academy built there.
The expansion and development of new facilities therefore provides exciting new opportunities but we are very aware that whilst growth in student numbers will be healthy in providing greater opportunity, we will need to wholeheartedly retain our focus on care, respect and inclusion which has always been at the heart of our core values.
Principal of Attleborough Academy Norfolk