Could Great Yarmouth be about to get a new secondary school?
14:37 31 January 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2013
The possibility of building a new secondary school in Great Yarmouth is being investigated, as the town faces a shortage of places for students.
Great Yarmouth VA High School has 900 students, but this is set to climb to about 1,400 within five years - with its current capacity less than 1,000.
Mick Castle, county cabinet member for education, said the shortage of secondary school places is a legacy from the 1980s when birth rates slumped and all Great Yarmouth secondary schools apart from Great Yarmouth High School were closed.
County council officers have floated the idea of building new classrooms on Yarmouth High School’s playing fields and using the public Beaconsfield playing fields for school PE lessons to solve the problem.
But residents are concerned about the possible loss of the public Beaconsfield, and have asked what ‘plan B’ would be if the county council proposals are rejected.
Around two dozen attended a meeting at the Wellesley Sports Club last week where residents outlined their concerns and a Friends of North Yarmouth Open Spaces working group was formed.
In the wake of the meeting, Mick Castle, county councillor for Central and Northgate division and cabinet member for schools, met with borough council leader Trevor Wainwright and borough councillor for Central and Northgate ward Lee Sutton this week.
Mr Sutton called for more information about alternative options, as he reasoned it would be difficult for a consultation to give an informed decision were there just one choice.
“We need to know what options the county council has considered, such as a new secondary school,” wrote Mr Sutton. “We also need to see evidence and analysis of population growth and the impact on student numbers, and open space provision in the long term.”
Officers have been tasked with providing further detail, and it is hoped this will be available by late next week.
Mr Castle said: “I promised to get the lead officers at Norfolk County Council to give that background information, so I think that probably will be helpful.
“The parents are expecting us to come up with a way forward to tick all the boxes, that satisfies everyone’s concerns.
“I should have that by next week, then we will meet up again.”
He added it was “very early days” in the consultation process.
In his view, the shortage of spaces stems from the 1980s when birth rates dropped and all Yarmouth secondary schools apart from the Great Yarmouth High School closed.
Theses included the Hospital School, Styles Secondary Modern and the secondary school provision at Greenacre and Edward Worlledge, which are now both primary schools.
Gorleston Catholic School and Claydon School in Gorleston also both closed.
“Youngsters from Southtown and Cobholm initially went to Claydon, then Cliff Park,” said Mr Castle. “Then as the schools filled up again we ended up with kids from the Barrack Estate going to Cliff Park.
“It’s a sore point since the 1980s.
“At the moment all our primary schools are looking at extra places to make them bigger, but those kids will need secondary places. “That’s where the scale of the problem comes.”
Consultation on the Beaconsfield playing fields proposal is expected to run for several months.