High school roll falls by 750 pupils

A high school that was once the biggest in Norfolk has declined by almost 750 pupils in just four years, new figures showed last night.While most neighbouring high schools have seen a growth in the number of students, the Hewett in south Norwich has slipped from 1,769 students aged 12-18 in 2003 to 1,021 at the beginning of this year.

A high school that was once the biggest in Norfolk has declined by almost 750 pupils in just four years, new figures showed last night.

While most neighbouring high schools have seen a growth in the number of students, the Hewett in south Norwich has slipped from 1,769 students aged 12-18 in 2003 to 1,021 at the beginning of this year.

The rapid decline has prompted sadness from those who remember when it was seen as one of the most successful and prestigious high schools in Norfolk.

But last night, education chiefs said they were "absolutely chuffed" with recent progress and added that the current size was "more realistic" than previous numbers.

Headteacher Tom Samain, who took over in September 2003, said he would rather oversee a "successful medium to large school than an

under-performing mammoth school".

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Figures obtained by the EDP show that the number of 12-16-year-olds fell from 1,168 to 735 in four years, while the sixth form was cut in half, from 591 to 286.

Meanwhile, nearby schools including City of Norwich School, Notre Dame School, Framingham Earl High and Earlham High have grown - suggesting pupils who would have once gone to the Hewett have moved to its neighbours.

Deputy director of children's services Fred Corbett said much of the decline happened when the school was in special measures from January 2005 to March 2006.

He added: "Hewett is the one high school that took its students from all over the city. Most of the others have a dominant local catchment. It seems as though those youngsters living slightly further away, their parents lost confidence in what the school was offering.

"I think that confidence has been rebuilt, but it doesn't mean parents are prepared to start travelling all over the city again to bring their children back to the Hewett."

He said: "We don't see the school's numbers going back up hugely. We think the new numbers are more realistic.

"We are absolutely chuffed with the progress the school has made since it was in special measures. It has rapidly recovered and is providing well for youngsters."

Mr Samain said: "It's a lot to do with demographics and past perceptions about the school's performance.

"When I took over, the roll was falling, and you don't turn a very large school around in a matter of months. It's a four to five-year programme.

"When I look at where we are now to where we were three-and-a-half years ago, there is so much success; attendance has improved, exam results have improved.

"The last Ofsted report said the behaviour of the students was good."

He said the sixth form

had been "deliberately downsized" to make it economically viable. We are stabilising and the school has never felt better in terms of its atmosphere."

Colin Collis, Norfolk secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said: "The governors and the headteacher must take considerable responsibility for the current reduced circumstances of the school. It has lost out in terms of popularity.

"I look with some sadness on what has happened to

the school. It's gobsmacking the numbers can decline so much, so quickly."

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