Revealed: Which Norfolk secondary schools have the most and least unfilled new intake places?

Trafalgar College in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Trafalgar College in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Unfilled places in the new intake at a Great Yarmouth school have doubled, amid proposals for a controversial merger.

Admissions data for this autumn's year seven intake show 95 of Trafalgar College's 120 places remain empty - a rate of 79pc.

It is just over double the 47 empty spots for last year, when 39pc of new places were unfilled.

It makes Trafalgar one of 12 schools which had at least 25pc of its year seven places empty, the Norfolk County Council data shows.

Of the 9,867 places available across the county's 53 high schools, 87pc - 8,606 - were filled, leaving 1,261 empty.

The opening day, with principal Ian Burchett, of Trafalgar College in 2016. Picture: James Bass

The opening day, with principal Ian Burchett, of Trafalgar College in 2016. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

The steep vacancy rate at Trafalgar comes after the Inspiration Trust, which runs it, revealed a bid to merge the free school with nearby Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in September.

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Charter had hit headlines that month with strict new behaviour rules, and, when the merger plan was announced, it saw several parents transfer their children to other schools.

James Goffin, from the trust, said: 'There are some 200 spare places across the borough in Great Yarmouth, which reflects our decision to propose merging Trafalgar College and Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.

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'Applications at Charter are in line with last year and we are pleased that families are backing the improvements we are making there, which were recently endorsed by Ofsted.'

Children sitting an exam. Picture: PA

Children sitting an exam. Picture: PA

MORE: Questions after Norfolk high schools fails to fill more than 75pc of new places for two years in a rowUnder the merger proposals, which are yet to get government sign-off, the schools would join in status from September, with all pupils taught at the Charter site from 2019.

When the merger was announced, parent Jimmy Dwyer, who set up the Facebook group Keep Trafalgar College Separate, said there was a 'real difference in ethos' between the two schools, and that his child had been happy at Trafalgar, which opened in 2016.

The number of unfilled new places at Charter has remained steady - last year, it was 27pc, compared to 30pc this year.

Elsewhere around Norfolk, 22 schools recorded waiting lists, including Notre Dame High in Norwich, which had 139 pupils on the list. Schools with high vacancy rates include Northgate High in Dereham, with 56pc of new places empty, Iceni Academy in Methwold, with 46pc, and Wayland Academy in Watton, with 38pc.

Various factors are behind the figures - from demographic shifts to exam results, Ofsted ratings and nearby schools. Some schools will be bigger than currently needed to cope with future growth.

The school place balance

The school population in Norfolk and Suffolk is expected to swell by almost 10pc in the next three years.

According to new figures from the Department for Education, the total number of pupils at primaries and secondaries in both counties was 204,361 in 2016/17.

By 2021/22, that figure is predicted to rise to 223,355 - an increase of 9.2pc.

The figures also show that 19.2pc of primary schools in Norfolk and Suffolk are oversubscribed, with 10pc of secondaries full. The remainder have at least one place which is empty.

Local authorities in the two counties have planned for almost 6,000 new school places until 2019/20, to cope with future growth.

The government figures show that in Norfolk, the council has 'firm plans for delivery' for 1,213 school places in this school year, 600 in 2018/19 and another 525 in 2019/20.

In Suffolk, the figures are higher, with 1,575 planned this year, 1,524 next year and 525 in 2019/20.

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