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National Schools Commissioner visits two of Norfolk's top schools

Published on 13/05/16

The man charged with ensuring the country's schools deliver for their students today visited two of Norfolk's top schools.

Sir David Carter became National Schools Commissioner in February 2016, and leads a team of eight Regional Schools Commissioners who monitor schools and have the power to decide who runs them.

Today he visited Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form in Norwich, and Hethersett Academy, both schools run by the Inspiration Trust and which posted some of the best results in Norfolk last August.

At Sir Isaac, head of school Rebecca Handley Kirk showed Sir David around the building - converted from the former Bethel Street fire station - and explained how the maths and science specialist college operates.

Sir David heard how its first year of A Level results had seen students achieve the highest average A Level point score of any free to attend sixth form in Norfolk, with results in many subjects outstripping national performance many times over.

Sir David said: "As an early free school, Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form has led the way in offering something different to students in Norfolk and I was interested to see how its focus on maths and science has led to phenomenal success for students.

"To achieve the highest average A Level points score in the county in their first set of results is great testament to how a free school's freedom to innovate can pay great dividends for students."

At Hethersett Academy, Sir David enjoyed performances by the academy's jazz band and string ensemble, as well as seeing a range of subjects being taught and talking to pupils.

Principal Gareth Stevens talked Sir David through the school's astonishing progress, going from special measures to being rated Outstanding by Ofsted in less than three years.

Last summer the academy's pupils recorded the best GCSE performance for a mainstream school in Norfolk, with 74% achieving five or more GCSEs A*-C including English and Maths - only beaten by independent and boarding schools.

Speaking after the visit, Sir David said: "Visiting Hethersett Academy shows first hand the difference being an academy can make.

"Before it joined the Inspiration Trust the school was in special measures. Now just three years later the academy has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted and students have achieved some of the best GCSE results in Norfolk. Not only that, but the school has vibrant music, drama, and sport.

"Every school faces its own challenges but the story here is a truly impressive one and shows the difference that the hard work of academy leaders, teachers, students and parents can make."

Sir David also met with principals from across the Inspiration Trust's 13 schools, to hear about their range of experience from nursery through to sixth form, and share his priorities for the National Schools Commissioner role.