Hewett Academy in Norwich struggles to attract new pupils

PUBLISHED: 06:50 25 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:34 25 March 2016

The Hewett Academy principal Tom Leverage.

The Hewett Academy principal Tom Leverage. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Questions have been raised over the financial viability of the Hewett Academy as more than two thirds of year seven places for the next school year remain unfilled.

Clive LewisClive Lewis

A total of 56 students have been offered a place at the Hewett starting in September and there are 180 available places, Norfolk County Council has revealed.

This was down from 69 in 2015, 82 in 2014 and 84 in 2013.

By comparison, the nearby City Academy has offered places to 147 students this year, out of 180 available places.

Hewett principal Tom Leverage said admission numbers had been in decline before the school became an Inspiration Trust academy, and the application deadline was too early for changes to be felt in time.

But Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said this showed parents were “voting with their feet”.

A Hewett spokesman said admissions numbers would likely increase slightly before September following appeals and late applications.

Asked whether the low admission numbers affected the financial viability of the school, principal Mr Leverage declined to answer directly.

Academies receive funding per pupil, and any reduction in pupils will result in a drop in funding.

Instead, he said: “It’s a sad fact that applications for the Hewett have been on the decline for a decade, so while these figures are disappointing they are not a surprise.

“Parents made their choices in October, just a few weeks after the academy had opened and before our changes had the chance to be felt.

“Since then we have refurbished and re-opened the west wing of the school, got our rowing academy underway, had sporting success in the Norfolk Sports Games, and much much more.

“I’m confident that through this summer’s results and when they visit the school, the pupils and parents of Norwich will see how improved things are and come back to their school.”

The use of the Hewett site in Cecil Road for educational use dates from 1958, and decades ago it was one of the largest schools in the county with almost 2,000 pupils on the school roll.

A recent Ofsted report showed the total number of pupils as 600.

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said: “I don’t take any joy in the Hewett School struggling, but I think it’s a clear sign that the community and parents have said they would like their children to go somewhere they can have a real say.

“There are academies that do give children a say in their education and I think what we’re seeing is parents are voting with their feet.

“I think the Hewett should take a long, hard look at itself.

“We can all acknowledge that some academies are better than others.

“Maybe there’s a lesson here for them, and maybe it’s time to show some humility and say they do want to change their model.”

He said his main concern was for children currently at the school and the “viability of their education”.

The Inspiration Trust runs schools around Norfolk, and most recently announced it would take over Great Yarmouth High School.

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