Which Norfolk secondary schools have the most empty places for the new intake?
PUBLISHED: 07:13 30 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 30 March 2019
Nine secondary schools in Norfolk have more than one in five of their places for the new intake in September unfilled, figures reveal.
Admissions data from Norfolk County Council shows three schools – Thetford Academy, North Walsham High School and Sewell Park Academy in Norwich – had more than one third of their places empty as of March 1, the day offers were announced.
The figures are less dramatic than in 2018, when three schools in the county had more than half their places unfilled.
As of March 1, 9,039 of the 9,781 places in the county’s 52 high schools for 2019/20 were filled.
Thetford Academy, run by the Inspiration Trust, had the highest proportion of empty places, with only 202 of 330 places filled.
Another of the trust’s schools, the Hewett Academy, had more than 25pc of its places unfilled – but it is an improvement on last year for the Norwich academy when three quarters of its then-150 places were empty.
Inspiration Trust spokesman James Goffin said: “We are very pleased to see a substantial increase in pupils coming into year seven at the Hewett Academy, with numbers around double this time last year. With a £2m new sports hall and a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted we are pleased families are coming back to the school.
“It is also pleasing to see an increase in applications to Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, following the near-doubling of GCSE results in the summer. We have also had pupils transferring into the academy at other ages thanks to the hard work of pupils and staff to transform the school.”
He added that the empty places at Thetford were anticipated due to delays in the construction of the 5,000-home Kingsfleet development on the edge of the town, which the school had been expanded to accommodate.
Fellow Inspiration Trust schools Hethersett Academy and Jane Austen College have waiting lists for the new school year. They are among 27 schools which recorded waiting lists – five more than last year – including Notre Dame High School (151 pupils), Springwood High School (126 pupils) and City of Norwich School (123 pupils).
At Sewell Park Academy 70 of its 210 places were empty – but Don Evans, chief executive of the Right for Success Trust, which runs the school, said a previous fall in roll numbers was being reversed. He added: “The academy now has one of the highest percentages of increasing pupil numbers in Norfolk.”
‘We have made significant improvements’
North Walsham High School saw a leap in its rate of empty places, from 24pc last year to 36pc now.
In January the school defended itself against a critical Ofsted report which said a “legacy of ineffective leadership and teaching” was holding back progress.
Headteacher Neil Powell said the school had seen its intake jump significantly in the previous two years and had been due for another rise this year, but the Ofsted judgement had a direct impact on applications.
“We have made significant improvements but we have not had time for that to show fully. It is unfortunate that it came at a time when we were on an up-turn,” he said.
“We have seen a very clear level of support improving in the community. We still have that level of support, it is significant that the parents who have children at our school did not change their minds because they see the provision.
“We will continue on our school improvement journey.”
School place demand
Demand for school places can be affected by factors including demographic changes, nearby schools and Ofsted reports.
Pupil forecasts for Norfolk, published by the Department for Education, predict the number of school pupils in the county will rise from 115,709 in 2019/20 to 119,983 in 2022/23 – with secondary age pupils making up 75pc of the jump.
Government figures show Norfolk is set to get around 525 new school places for 2019/20 to cope with demand.
Norfolk County Council has laid out plans to build 22 new primary schools and one new high school in Norwich in the coming years.
The proposed schools come in response to the building of thousands of new homes, with new schools plans focused on hot spots including Sprowston and Old Catton, Thetford, Attleborough and Hethersett.
The council’s local growth and investment plan estimates the schools will cost around £200m to build.