Are academy schools to blame for falling numbers as Hewett School faces up to £430,000 deficit?

The Hewett School in Norwich. The Hewett School in Norwich.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
8:26 AM

The news that the Hewett School in Norwich is coping with a £430,000 deficit blamed on falling pupil numbers has sparked renewed debate about the impact of the academy and free school programme on existing secondary schools.

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Parents near Hewett School have mixed views

Lisa Tedstill, of Robin Hood Road, whose daughter Tee-Gan Collier went to the Hewett, said: “In my opinion it’s brilliant. It’s really good. They were really excellent. She is now 21 and she is at Lincoln University and still in contact with the school.”

Sarah Pearson, of Tuckswood Lane, went to open evenings at the Hewett for two of her children, but decided to send them elsewhere.

She said: “What put me off was that we got into the classrooms and the teachers did not make you feel welcome. I thought ‘They are meant to be encouraging children to go there, but they did not even look as if they wanted to be there themselves’.”

One mother, who asked not to be named, said: “The Hewett is a good school and [associate headteacher] Mr Anthony is a great person and dedicated to his pupils. My daughter wants to go their sixth form and it is a great shame that they are so much in debt.

“All schools have problems... sometimes at The Hewett it seems the left hand does not know what the right is doing but it is a big school and in my opinion my daughter has made the right choice to continue her education there as the teachers she will be having are as dedicated as Mr Anthony.”

A complex mix of factors explains where the Hewett finds itself, including changing demographics, a period where its reputation suffered from being in special measures, and the attraction of newly-built academy schools in Costessey and Heartease.

For the Hewett, the figures are stark. Its pupil population has halved in the past decade, falling from 1,500 to 734, and the school has had to leave vacancies unfilled and plan changes to its leadership and management structure to reduce the deficit.

Part of the Hewett’s problem is explained by the numbers of children in the system.

Alison Cunningham, an adviser for school organisation at Norfolk County Council, said pupil numbers have been falling for the last six years, and the current year 11 has 8,700 pupils, with about 100 fewer children in the current year seven.

Environmental feature at the new Open Academy, Heartsease, Norwich.Environmental feature at the new Open Academy, Heartsease, Norwich.

She said: “The current year seven cohort is the smallest in the last six years but we think we have now reached a turning point – years six to reception year are all bigger in size than the current year seven.”

She added that recent pressure has been on primary places, and the numbers in the secondary sector will increase as children move through the system.

What about the impact of academies?

They were originally a Labour innovation to turn around schools in deprived areas with a legacy of underachievement, and new state-of-the-art buildings were a signal to parents about schools making a fresh start.

The Open Academy, which replaced Heartsease High, was Norfolk’s first, and since it opened more local parents have sent their children there, rather than travel to schools further away, like the Hewett.

Concerns academies would affect the rest of the system were voiced ahead of the Open Academy’s opening, and at a special scrutiny panel meeting in July 2007, Norwich City councillors were “very concerned at the possible adverse affect on nearby schools”.

For Ian Gibson, who opposed the creation of the Open Academy when he was Norwich North MP, the academy system has seen a tradition of cooperation between Norfolk schools replaced with one of competition.

He said: “The structures are destroying those schools which were previous top class. They have changed them because they are not getting the pupils in. There’s no doubt about it.”

Academy proponents say increased choice harnesses market forces to reward success and encourage other schools to up their game. Academy opponents say that for competition to work, there have to be losers as well as winners, and so some schools suffer falling numbers.

While the current secondary academies have replaced existing schools, two brand new players will enter the market in Norwich in September: the Jane Austen College, a secondary free school, and the county’s first university technical college, for students aged 14-19.

Alison Cunningham, from the council, said: “We expect the arrival of these two new schools to have a limited impact on individual schools in Norwich. Their specialist offering to students and parents means they are likely to attract pupils from a number of schools, rather than one school in particular, which is why we don’t think there will be a dramatic impact on a single secondary school.”

What impact have academy schools had on schools that did not convert? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

12 comments

  • Poor old "V"lie still banging his petulant sack teachers drum..... Of course academies are wrecking quality education for our children and thankfully it is falling apart earlier than anyone could have dreamt. Gove and Agnew don't care about children....they can only focus on academies and free schs and are blind to anything else. Their ignorance will further speed up academy failure.....poor fools.

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    Sportswagon

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Its Parents who cose schools for their children,so if Academys and Free Schools get "The Parent Vote" Blame the Hewett School !

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    Albert Cooper

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • I don't understand why parents are not sending their children to this school. With a'best 8' gcse average grade of C-, it is one full grade above City Academy Norwich appaling D-. Surely City Academy should be put in special measures?

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Lets get things into perspective, The Hewett achieved 43% A*-C in the summer exams 2013 and the 23 million pound new building at the Open Academy, who incidentally have been an academy for over five years achieved 34%. Why are the results at the Open Academy so poor after all this money has been spent on a new building and senior managers salaries??????

    Report this comment

    GreyMan

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Ingo, Theodore Agnew already runs the show, whether or not he is given the Ofsted job. Most of these educational reforms come from him (Agnew) and not that plonker Gove who is only implementing the wishes of one of the Tory parties donors as per usual.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • It goes to show nothing "V", except that the continuous interference in education, by party politicians who want to force their moral agenda down teachers and pupils throats. They are the cause for the bad results, for continuously disrupting and changing the system, breaking routine and creating chaos. I agree with Dr. Ian Gibson that Academies are not bulldozers to be used to run everything down. Ms Morgan had it right and the appointment of yes man Mr.Agnew, the bulldozer driver will futher disrupt our childrens education.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • One of the joys of the market based Education system is that some Schools will close.

    Report this comment

    CllrJohnCowan

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Of course it's the case, isn't this what Theodore Agnew and his sidekick Gove want? It's all part of the big Tory plan, for goodness sake can't people see that?

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Thanks Cllr. Cowan for making me smile, but what if they are academies? will they also be allowed to fail in affluent white areas, or is it just 'otherthinking' free schools in Bradford that fail?

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • With so many of the Anti remarks re Acadamies and Free Schools,I would ask .why do parents send their children to these schools and not to The Hewett School? could it be that in their judgment they are a big improvement ! Its "Parent Power" and long may it reign

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • It just goes to show that people prefer academies, rather than the council, run ones. "....the teachers did not make you feel welcome......" ".....but they did not even look as if they wanted to be there themselves’.” Of course not. they know it is hard to get rid of them. The sooner this changes and make it easier to sack them the better. Still no sound from Castle though.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • There is nothing to stop this being a great school with 700-odd pupils. That sort of number makes it much easier for teachers to know almost all the pupils, enhancing community spirit and a sense of value which is lost in the anonymity of 1000+ sites. A strong head who takes no nonsense can quickly have an impact in improving standards of behaviour and teaching, as well as celebrating success and what is done well. Then word will spread and it can grow again as it becomes popular. Get the right people in the right jobs and stop pointing the finger of blame at other schools - sort yourselves out!!

    Report this comment

    a fine city

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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