City Academy Norwich

Four years ago it was the fourth-worst performing school in the country. Only six out of every hundred pupils obtained five A* to C grade passes at GCSE, including maths and English. Now its pupils are brimming with a new sense of confidence – spending three years instead of two on their GCSE studies, starting them at the age of 13.

For good measure, one classroom is filled with ex-military personnel attempting to boost the performance of pupils on the cusp of getting a C grade pass. They have also extended the school day, with lessons continuing until 3.40pm, instead of ending at 3pm.

Welcome to the City Academy in Norwich - the school of the future.

Its extension of the school day has helped it complete the Key Stage 3 curriculum (designed for 11 to 14-year-olds) in two years instead of three.

"I think we're doing it differently to the way the national curriculum review suggested," says David Brunton, Academy principal. "They were thinking of three years of study for each subject. We're saying if a student has a passion for a subject they can do it in the first year – and then move on to something else."

The school offers its pupils all the ingredients of the English Baccalaureate – which is given to pupils who obtain five A* to C grade passes, including maths, English, science, a foreign language and a humanities subject, either history or geography.

The school is following the philosophy advocated in the seminal inquiry into exams by former chief schools inspector, Sir Mike Tomlinson, (which was never implemented in full) that the curriculum should be "stage not age", i.e pupils should tackle subjects when they are ready for them, rather than at some pre-determined age.

Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, has described it as a "good school with outstanding features". In other measures, it has also seen a remarkable turnaround. When Mr Brunton arrived the school was languishing near the bottom of the value-added league table, which measures how much schools have improved upon what their pupils were expected to achieve when they arrived at the age of 11. He came with an impressive track record as head of nearby Wymondham High School, which was at one stage the top performing non-selective state school in the country at A-level. It also beat a number of selective grammar schools. He had also worked in a school in challenging circumstances beforehand. Three years on, and City Academy is in the top one per cent for the whole country for its value-added score.

Attendance has improved, too. "Attendance was 81 per cent," he says. "and is now running at 93 per cent."

 

Address: 
299 Bluebell Road
Norwich
NR4 7LP