Unfilled pupil places across north Norfolk high schools

Dr Andrew Richardson. Photo: Karen Bethell

Dr Andrew Richardson. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

Scores of pupil places at three north Norfolk high schools remain unfilled for next year.

Norfolk County Council figures reveal half the places at Stalham high, 38.2pc of the places at Cromer Academy and 21.6pc of places at North Walsham high have not been taken up by year seven pupils due to start in September.

In comparison, every pupil space has been filled at Aylsham and Sheringham high schools and Broadland high only has space for one student - a 0.7pc vacancy rate.

One of the major impacts of having unfilled student places is a reduction in school funding.

Dr Andrew Richardson, director of the North Norfolk Academy Trust which is responsible for both Sheringham and Stalham high, said pupil numbers were influenced by birth rates,

Ofsted judgements and exam results.

Dr Richardson, headteacher of Sheringham high, said: 'It is to do with people's perceptions of schools.'

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He added it took a long time to build up a school's good reputation.

Dr Richardson said: 'I'm confident that the GCSE results this year at Stalham are going to be better.'

The academy trust took on Stalham high, which was put into special measures in 2014, in the new year.

Dr Richardson added there were some 'exciting changes' happening at the school.

He said: 'Stalham has got a really well-organised and professional school. People's confidence will thrive there.'

Last year, 51pc of Stalham students achieved five or more A*-C grades including English and maths.

Comparable results at other local schools were:

?Aylsham high - 70pc

?Broadland high - 66pc

?Cromer Academy- 57pc

?North Walsham high - 50pc

?Sheringham high - 72pc

Caroline Brooker, North Walsham High School headteacher, said she believed the actual number of year seven students would be bigger by around 10 students compared to last year.

She said that was a 'continuing trend' which reflected the growing population in North Walsham.

Mrs Brooker added: 'We work hard to attract students, in particular working alongside the primary schools in our cluster, including welcoming year five and six children into the school for open events and learning days. This gives both them and their parents the opportunity to look beyond the bald league table figures.'

Cromer Academy, run by the Inspiration Trust, said the school was emerging from a 'demographic dip'.

Principal Dr Geoff Baker said the school roll had been growing over the past three years and would carry on increasing because of the school's 'continued success', with a good Ofsted rating and a 'significant increase in student attainment'.

Chris Hey, county council head of place planning and organisation, said: 'What we are seeing is in effect two factors here – demographic trends and parental preferences. The number of high school students has fallen in recent years but numbers are expected to increase over the next five years, with an extra 1,000 pupils due to join Norfolk's high schools. This means the number of vacant places will fall dramatically.'