Graphic: Which Norfolk secondary schools have the most and least empty spaces for new pupils?

Claire Heald, executive principal of Jane Austen College, outside the building on Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams Claire Heald, executive principal of Jane Austen College, outside the building on Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
11:30 AM

Ten Norfolk secondary schools will have more than a third of their Year 7 places unfilled when they open for the new academic year.

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Analysis: Ofsted and GCSE grades are not the full picture

Year 7 admissions show some positive correlation between a school’s popularity and its most recent GCSE results and Ofsted grade, but it is far from perfect.

Wymondham College, with an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted grade and superb exam results, has a long waiting list, but there are anomalies.

Some can be put down to Norfolk’s rural nature, but it is harder to explain the differing fortunes of schools within Norwich.

Victory Academy in Costessey had an outstanding Ofsted report and some of Norfolk’s best GCSE results, yet its new Year 7 is 72.9pc full. Meanwhile, the new intake of City Academy, with Norfolk’s worst GCSE results in 2013, is 98.3pc full.

Admission figures show there are more than 1,600 spare places for children starting secondary schools, whose funding is largely decided by pupils numbers, forcing some to downsize.

Norfolk County Council said schools had been aware of the trend for some time, and had planned for the demographic dip which saw Year 7 numbers fall from more than 9,000 in the 2000s to a low of 7,800 last year. They are forecast to rise to around 9,000 from 2018.

- Click here to view a graphic showing admissions figures for all Norfolk secondary schools

Rob Anthony, deputy head of The Hewett School. Picture by Adrian Judd for EDPRob Anthony, deputy head of The Hewett School. Picture by Adrian Judd for EDP

The Hewett School in Norwich has filled 81 of its maximum of 180 Year 7 places, giving a 55pc vacancy rate for this cohort.

Deputy principal Rob Anthony said it had reduced the number of staff, mainly through natural wastage as people left or retired.

He said: “It can reduce the number of options children have, and that’s not something you want to do. But because we are a member of Open Opportunity we are still able to offer a wide-ranging curriculum because our children can access those courses elsewhere.”

Richard Snowden, head of school admissions service at Norfolk County Council, said this year’s trends were driven by parental choice and the demographic dip, and added a school’s medium-term reputation, rather than its most recent Ofsted or GCSE results, seemed to most influence parents.

He said special factors applied to two schools which are traditionally oversubscribed: Notre Dame in Norwich, the only Catholic secondary school in Norfolk, and Wymondham College, which has boarding students.

He said the oversubscription of Aylsham High was a more recent result of its strong performance.

He added that, despite the high number of unfilled places, no high schools were judged financially unviable.

The opening of the Jane Austen College in Norwich, a free school, has reduced pupil availability for other schools, but the council said its effect was not concentrated on any specific school. Its expected 140 Year 7 pupils is subject to change.

Executive principal Claire Heald said: “They have not come from a particular area as such. They have come more from central Norwich, but they are from all around the city, not from a particular location.”

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

7 comments

  • So can anyone explain why, if schools and presumably therefore the authorities, knew that the demand for school places has been falling for some time, were the Inspiration Trust allowed to open up a new Free school? To be allowed to open a Free school you have to show there is a clear need for it. Plainly there wasn't and isn't - yet another Da Souza back door deal with her mates in government? And Claire Heald? "They have not come from a particular area as such. They have come more from central Norwich" - isn't that a particular area then? Good to see the high caliber of people being put in charge of these schools, it gives one great confidence in our educators...

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    JRedding

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • What a fantastic choice parents have today, so many schools with so many vacancies. I can remember the good old days when rubbish schools were guaranteed a full intake simply because all the other schools were full. Now rubbish schools will shrink until nobody notices them anymore.

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    Rhombus

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Great to see such thoughtful, intelligent and a wholly honest realisation in these comments about the academy sham that those of us who dared raise a voice were dismissed as out of touch dinosaurs The policy is a financial and education disaster and completely shuts out us parents.

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    Sportswagon

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Interesting to see so many unfilled places at the same time that certain organisations are being given permission to open up new schools. Why would the government permit these new schools whilst others sit there with the facilities and empty seats? Schools are much of a muchness these days, although I feel that it is very often a type of snobbery from parents that leads to some schools being under-subscribed. A good, enthusiastic child will achieve whichever school they go to, and it's a shame that some schools miss out on the potentially higher achieving pupils from their catchment because of public perception. There are some tremendous schools who achieve great things for their pupils without always getting the recognition they deserve, whilst others ride on a wave a self-publicity and massaging the figures whilst playing games with exams and exam boards. All of us involved in education know of schools who stretch the boundaries as to what is and isn't allowed, and introduce GCSE "equivalents". For those outside of education circles, they only have these meaningless headline grabbing league tables to go on, and cringe-worthy self-obsessed press releases, whilst the rest just carry on doing the best for students. The whole education system has turned into a 'smoke and mirrors' scenario. Gone are the days of sending your child to the nearest school. It's all about keeping up with the Jones', and if the local school isn't the school of choice, they'll send them off to the latest 'fashionable' school. The shame in all this is, is that often the education down the road is no better than the local school, but these parents will never admit it- they would lose face, heaven forbid. It's good to have a choice, but I often feel that the whole process is no longer about providing the best education for students, but more about publicity and selling a product. More students, afterall, means more £££'s, so which business isn't going to play the game to get bums on seats? In this day and age, it's all about who plays the game the best. Such a shame for a whole generation of pupils who should be at the centre of all a school does, not to be pawns in political and personal gain for politicians, headteachers, and these wonderful trusts, transforming education in the county (or more probably, not!!!)

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    OldSchool

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • Well done Martin George and colleagues for the excellent graphic and for pursuing the stories swirling around education in Norfolk with vigour and intelligence. There is so much to expose and discuss around the academisation of Norfolk schools and the impact of Dame Rachel deSouza and her Inspiration Trust. Dame Rachel is undoubtedly the most powerful person in Norfolk education, yet nobody elected her and nobody can remove her democratically. Meanwhile, as this story makes clear, we have immensely expensive school places (just how expensive we can't discover) being provided at a time when there are hundreds of expensively empty school places around the City. The 'market' model of education provision is failing dreadfully. Not that it's really an open market when certain providers are subsidised to the hilt to the detriment of 'consumers' and other providers.

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    LeftUnityNorwich

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • The county and the country is supposed to be skint, and yet they can find the fortune required to turn an old office into a new free school to which 140 kids are going to go to. Trouble is, there are way more than 140 spaces at the existing schools, so the free school is not needed from a pupil numbers point-of-view.

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    GWhizz

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • It is very interesting to read this and look at the map of availability. I note that my child's seconds choice school was turned down due to being oversubscribed, yet I can see it has the exact space available from the school he was given. Whilst I am now pleased we have his 3rd choice. I have certainly been more than impressed with the induction process. It does make me feel like we were being fobbed off and that Parents do have a chance under appeal, unless you are going for Wymondham College of course!

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    luanmapo

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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

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