Graphic and analysis: What will happen to Norwich’s Sewell Park College and the Hewett School?
- Credit: Archant
Two Norwich high schools have been put in special measures. Education correspondent Martin George asks what their future holds, and where secondary education in the city stands.
The Hewett School and Sewell Park College already have large numbers of vacancies, disappointing exam results and temporary leaders. Now the 'inadequate' ratings from Ofsted inspectors have added to doubts about their future.
What are the next steps?
When schools have previously gone into special measures, Norfolk County Council has replaced their governors with interim executive boards (IEBs), which then decide their future – and invariably pursue academy conversion.
An IEB was appointed at Sewell Park last term, and one is expected to be appointed at the Hewett shortly.
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A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: 'Sewell Park College and the Hewett School have both been put in special measures by Ofsted – and clearly that is not good enough for pupils and parents.
'We are talking to the local authority about their plans. Ministers are clear that becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor can be the best solution to bring about rapid and sustained improvement.'
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Graphic: Where do Norwich's high schools stand?Will the schools become academies?
This may not be a foregone conclusion, as there are other factors at work here besides the Ofsted reports and exam results.
Gordon Boyd, assistant director of children's services, said: 'The difference in Norwich at the moment is the numbers issue. The Hewett is far from full, and Sewell Park is certainly not full either.'
The Hewett's Ofsted report points out it has a capacity of 1,493 pupils, but only 600 children on its roll. More children are forecast to enter Norwich's secondary school system in future years, but last September the Jane Austen College, a free school sponsored by the Inspiration Trust, opened near the centre of Norwich. A DfE assessment of Jane Austen predicted it would have a 'high' impact on Sewell, and a 'moderate' impact on the Hewett.
The new player in Norwich secondary education means it is not certain that increased numbers of children in the system will help Hewett and Sewell grow again.
If they convert, who would sponsor the schools?
Two biggest Norfolk-based academy sponsors are already heavily committed.
The Inspiration Trust is already working on plans for two new free schools, while Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) already has a high school, a college and a university technical college in the city. Neither are believed to be interested in sponsoring Hewett or Sewell.
Any academisation of Hewett and Sewell Park could give national academy chains which do not currently have a presence in Norfolk an opening into the county.
Of two main national academy chains with a number of schools in Norfolk, Ormiston Academies Trust said it had not been approached about the schools or discussed them, and Academy Transformation Trust said it had not had discussions with the council or the DfE about the schools 'at this stage'.
Will the schools close?
Both schools face significant problems. With disappointing GCSE results, hundreds of unfilled places and bad Ofsted reports, as well as increased competition from the new Jane Austen College, Hewett and Sewell face a real challenge in attracting enough students to secure their futures.
Will potential academy sponsors be willing to commit time, energy and money to schools with an uncertain fate?
The Hewett School also has a deficit of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Asked whether the schools might close, rather than convert, Mr Boyd said: 'We are unclear about that at the moment. Technically, we do have to consider the future, and the pattern of school need.'
However, he said there is a 'serious duty' to ensure children currently at the schools are given a better deal very quickly, and added: 'We have got to be careful about any plan, because the rights of those individuals to a good education are as important as any ambitious plan for the future.'
Asked whether Sewell Park might close, John Catton, (pictured), chairman of its IEB said: 'The IEB are focusing on making improvements for the future, for the benefit of students.'
What about the wider Norwich picture?
In June, it was revealed that Norwich had the worst GCSE results of any local authority area in the country in 2013, prompting soul-searching in the city. This summer, it was the most-improved district in Norfolk. However, that masked an increasing contrast between the highest and lowest performing high schools. Sewell Park and the Hewett were not alone in seeing only marginal improvements in disappointing GCSE results this year. City Academy saw the number of pupils gaining the gold standard rise from 24p to 29pc, while Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey saw a 30 percentage point drop in its figure.
Meanwhile, Hellesdon High, Notre Dame High and City of Norwich School all saw their results rise to 65pc or more students gaining the gold standard.