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

The Hewett Academy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Hewett Academy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The divide between packed secondary schools and others struggling to fill places has been revealed by new admission figures for September.

There are 1,431 unfilled year seven spots across the county - making up almost 15pc of the 9,672 available across its 54 high schools.

The highest levels belong to Norwich's Hewett Academy, with 76pc unfilled, Sewell Park Academy (60pc) and Stalham High School (52pc).

But a further 12 schools have failed to fill more than a quarter of the year group, including Thetford Academy, Long Stratton High School and Gorleston's Cliff Park Ormiston Academy.

The figures, revealed under a Freedom of Information request and as of March 1, highlight a stark comparison in schools' situations - while many overcoming past poor performance or demographic shifts are struggling to fill spaces, others have lengthy waiting lists.

Sewell Park Academy. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Sewell Park Academy. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY


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Having filled its 82 places, Wymondham College has 97 pupils on its waiting list.

Principal Jonathan Taylor said: 'We are really pleased to be so popular with parents, a position that reflects our commitment to a well rounded, world class education.' But he said a lack of cash to invest in more space put the popular school in the 'ridiculous position of contemplating reducing numbers'.

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At City of Norwich School, 40 extra pupils have been admitted, with promises made that the increase will not impact class sizes or quality of teaching.

A spokesperson for the Ormiston Academies Trust, which runs the school, said the increase had been 'planned for well in advance'.

City of Norwich School, on Eaton Road. Picture: Norwich

City of Norwich School, on Eaton Road. Picture: Norwich - Credit: Archant

With funding for schools largely driven by pupil numbers, those with low admission figures receive less government cash, and schools with particularly low numbers can face questions over financial viability.

But with house-building in Norfolk and the high birth rate expected to see the number of pupils entering year seven soar, the council said the surplus was appropriate.

In growing south Norfolk, this year's intake for Wymondham College, Wymondham High Academy, Attleborough Academy Norfolk and Hethersett Academy was either full or oversubscribed.

Valerie Moore, chief executive at Right for Success trust, which runs Sewell Park Academy, said the school had since received more applications and added that figures for under-subscribed schools were likely to shift until - and after - September.

File picture of a secondary school classroom. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

File picture of a secondary school classroom. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire - Credit: PA

'To date we have always experienced a significant trend of late, or last minute enrolments,' she said.

More than three quarters of places unfilled at Norwich academy

A troubled Norwich academy will start the academic year having failed to fill more than three quarters of its places for new pupils.

The Hewett Academy principal Tom Leverage.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Hewett Academy principal Tom Leverage. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Of the 180 places for year seven students starting at the Hewett Academy in September, just 43 have been filled, leaving 137 - 76pc - empty.

It leaves the school, which has been run by the Inspiration Trust since 2015, with the highest percentage of empty places in Norfolk.

School roll has dwindled since 2008, the trust said, and last year it offered 56 year seven students a place, down on 69 in 2015, 82 in 2014 and 84 in 2013.

The school, which has seen poor GCSE results, was once one of the largest in Norfolk, with almost 2,000 pupils. An Ofsted report from 2014 put the figure at 600, leading to questions over its financial viability.

But principal Tom Leverage said he was confident the school was moving towards 'rising standards and rising student numbers'.

He said school atmosphere had been 'transformed' and added: 'Since joining the Inspiration Trust a little over 18 months ago more than £1m has been invested in the school, from new uniforms to new science labs.

'I am convinced that we are now back on a path to rising standards and rising student numbers.'

He said they were working closely with Hethersett Academy, which enjoyed a turnaround from inadequate to outstanding.

The divide across schools is perhaps best highlighted in Norwich, where multiple schools compete for the same intake.

Though there are 339 unfilled places across Norwich, seven of the city's 11 secondaries are full.

The City of Norwich School, less than a mile from the Hewett, has taken 280 new pupils, 40 more than planned, and has a waiting list of 56.

And Jane Austen College, also run by the Inspiration Trust, received a vote of confidence with a 70-place waiting list, the second largest in Norfolk.

Principal Rebecca Handley Kirk said the school's popularity was a 'great honour', citing its no homework policy and extended school day as the reasons.

But Sewell Park Academy, run by the Right for Success trust, recorded the second highest level of unfilled places - with 85 out of 210 spots, 60pc, empty.

The school has previously blamed financial troubles on falling pupil numbers and trust chief executive Valerie Moore said, while intake is rising, it had been hit by not being in a densely populated part of Norwich.

The Hewett School and Sewell Park College, the academies' predecessors, were put into special measures by Ofsted in 2014.

• Do you have an education story? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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